December 20, 2011

Bad Christmas gifts: A neuroscientific gifting guide

This article can now be found over at Brain Blogger as of today (12/25), so please check it out there. Merry Christmas, neuroscient-astic readers!

December 5, 2011

Why yawning is contagious

Check out the woman on the right and try not to yawn. Go on, give her a good ten seconds of your time. In the spirit of A Christmas Story, I triple-dog dare you. Really—try your absolute hardest not think about yawning as you read this post! C'mon, you know you can do it—you've been dared before, and you always fail miserably. NO YAWNING!

Chances are you've already let out an extended, eye-moistening, feel-good yawn or two at this point. I've personally counted six of my own since starting this post.

We've all heard that "yawning is contagious"—but why? In this busy world, we don't sleep as much as we should. Gallup Polls in recent years have found that 56% of Americans report drowsiness as a daytime problem, and 34% of us are "dangerously sleepy." Does seeing someone yawn remind us that we, too, are exhausted are must follow suit?

That may be part of it, but the true reason may go much deeper. As it turns out, yawning may have ancient roots in social bonding.