Yawning and Empathy

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Woman yawning

Contagious yawning is an odd phenomenon. To varying degrees witnessing a yawn will cause you to reciprocate. The questions are firstly why and secondly, who cares!

In 2015, a study was conducted which exposed something fascinating in relation to contagious yawning… When 135 students comprised of both genders were exposed to a yawning example, their level of reciprocation was connected to how high they scored on a psychopathy test! The conclusion was that those who ranked higher on the psychopathic scale were less likely to catch contagious yawns.

Clients in a recent professional presentation told me “this is Tinder 101!”. Apparently checking your partners ‘yawn’ response tells. You how connected they are with you and the world.

On a more serious note, this yawning phenomenon is apparently now being used for early signs of autism.

What does this mean for you? Well, the surprise is that there is no direct physiological impact that causes the yawn. In fact, reciprocal yawning is a representation of the fact that we imitate the throat shapes of others as an ancient form of empathy. Simply, a little insight to how every person feels empathy to a different degree.

As a public speaker and expert in body language and vocal intelligence, I am fascinated by this ability to imitate throat shapes of the people around us. Now, I am not suggesting you use ‘yawning’ in your professional work, but I am suggesting that you take on board the way others imitate your vocal tone, caused by the way you shape your throat. Did you know that young girls in the school yard all gravitate to the same pitch and as different nations we also gravitate towards a certain vocal sound. On a more personal standing, if you are sounding tense, those around you will begin to sound tense.

Leadership requires you know that your voice and vocal choices have an impact on others. I would not suggest you add ‘yawning’ into your repertoire, but do try to become of aware of your throat shape, because just like with yawning, the people around you feel it and imitate it. Remember, your sound is catching.

I have more blogs about body language and communication on my website as well as courses you can check out for improving your presence and influence as a leader here!

Dr. Louise Mahler

Dr. Louise Mahler

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About Me

Dr Louise Mahler is a body language expert. With a focus on study of the mind-body relationship and business applications; providing practical inspiring improvement to global leaders.

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