Tuesday, August 24, 2004
Tarzan, Cheetah and the Contagious Yawn
By Henry Fountain
The behavior of contagious yawning, when someone sees someone else yawning and then does it themselves, is now being studied with chimpanzees. Dr. James Anderson of the University of Stirling in Scotland and colleagues in Japan showed that at least a third of adult chimps, when watching videos of other chimps yawning, will yawn themselves. As Dr. Anderson says, And I knew that chimps showed self-recognition in a mirror or a photograph. So if they showed self-recognition, they were likely to show contagious yawning. As the studies showed, six female chimps watched videotapes of chimps yawning and all of the chimps yawned. Similar to toddlers and young children not experiencing contagious yawning, the offspring of three chimps didnt yawn either. After wards, the researchers will study if yawning is contagious between species.