How to prevent contagious yawning

yawn

How to prevent yawning? The scene: a crowded room in the late evening. Suddenly, one person yawns. Before long, others flow suit, accusing the rest to yawn of having started the mass display of tiredness and boredom.

We have all had experiences of that kind, yet many researchers dispute that yawning is contagious. A likely explanation is that when one yaw follows an other it becomes the subject of comment and impresses the memory. If it happens frequently enough, we believe , without any statistical basis, that one yawn has induced another. We come to similar conclusions about many other everyday events: lifts always go up when you want to go down; if you join a supermarket queue, the checker will start to cash up or the machine will break down; four or five buses that you don’t want to catch will arrive before one going your way.

Yawning is an involuntary act that may be brought on by tiredness or boredom. The mouth opens wide and admits a slow, deep breath, followed by an equally long expulsion of carbon dioxide. The heart rate speed up a little, and the eyes may start to water. The purpose of yawning is unknown, but theories suggest that it is induced by a high level of carbon dioxide in the blood. By taking a deep breath and exhaling, we increase the blood’s oxygen, livening ourselves up.

Another theory to explain why one yawn follows another is that the yawns come when we are all feeling drowsy. If we are crowded together in a stuffy room, we are all likely to need more oxygen; if it is also late evening, most of us are tired and keen to get to bed. One person’s yawn may suggest to others that they should do the same. If we are yawning through boredom, our subconscious is perhaps signalling for the meeting to end.

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