Yawning is also contagious in chimpanzees

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Chimpanzees yawn with humans

Yawning is contagious, both for humans and for different animals such as certain monkeys or dogs. A study now shows that chimpanzees can even be animated by humans and thus show a special empathy.

Chimpanzees are infected by the yawning of unknown people
Yawning is contagious and not just for people. Researchers from Emory University in Georgia have now found that chimpanzees get infected by yawning even unknown people. However, foreign chimpanzees or black-breasted baboons cannot encourage these monkeys to yawn, as the scientists report in the journal "Proceedings of the Royal Society B". The researchers suspect that positive experiences with a strange species are the prerequisite for such an empathetic feeling.

Yawning only contagious in one's own social group For scientists, infectious yawning is a means of testing the extent of empathy. A few years ago, behavioral scientist Frans de Waal and his colleague Matthew Campbell had shown that chimpanzees get infected by yawning from other chimpanzees. But only if they belong to their social group. As the researchers write, foreign chimpanzees encounter each other hostile in the wild and this hostility stands in the way of the empathetic feeling. Probably the blood-breast baboons are not considered hostile, but are simply meaningless socially for chimpanzees.

Emotional attachment has an impact on yawning. Emotional closeness also has an impact on yawning in people. Years ago, researchers from the University of Pisa found in a study that yawning was more contagious the higher the emotional connection with the other person. This is most pronounced among family members, closely followed by friends and most recently among strangers. However, people with disorders such as autism and young children are not infected by yawning because they lack the ability to empathize. Empathy is the ability to recognize and react to other people's emotions, thoughts, intentions and personality traits.

Yawning against dry eyes Some people yawn not because someone infects them, but quite consciously. Yawning is one of several recommended exercises to relax when your eyes are tired and dry. Because it can very easily and effectively initiate moisturizing and cleaning of the eyes. The eyes become moist and the burning disappears again. Yawning also relaxes the facial muscles and increases the oxygen supply. (sb)

Image: Kathi Strahl / pixelio.de

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Video: Chimpanzee Yawning at Chester Zoo

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