We yawn when we're tired, or when we're bored, but why is it that we 'catch' a yawn when the person next to us is doing it?

Contagious yawning is very much a psychological behaviour, and if you've found yourself going in for a good ole' yawn when after your companion, there's a good reason why.

Niels Eék, psychologist and co-founder of the mental wellbeing and personal develop app, Remente tells us that there are two ways of yawning - spontaneous and contagious. 

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Spontaneous yawning is that one you do when you're tired and when your body needs to get more oxygen. 

'Yawning helps with getting oxygen into the blood system,' Niels tells us. 'A recent study suggests that yawning cools down the brain, so nothing to do with contagious behaviour.' So why then do we always yawn when we see someone else do it? Niels informs us that many believe contagious yawning is a result of 'unconscious herd behaviour,' behaviour that we pick up 'because everyone else is doing it.' 

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It can also be down to behaviours and traits we picked up as kids from our parents. Others believe that yawning when others do it is also a sign of empathy, and as Dr Mark Silvert, Medical Director & Consultant Psychiatrist at The Blue Tree Clinic tells us, 'those with communication difficulties such as autism are not affected by contagious yawning like others, going someway to show that the more empathetic we are, the more we yawn when we see others doing it.

Fun yawning fact:'In some cultures, it was thought that yawning allowed good things to leave the body and bad things in,' Dr Silvert tells  us. 'Hence the use of covering your mouth - which is now thought as simple politeness than spirtualism.' So there you go, next time you open your mouth wide to suck in some air, there's a psychological reason behind it  - and not just because you're really bored.


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