Jump to Main ContentJump to Primary Navigation
Top

There's a flattering reason why women are twice as likely to catch a yawn than men

ThinkstockPhotos-160494375.jpg

A yawn can travel around a room faster than a biscuit tin, which is quite a feat when you've got the family round.

Now a new study has not only confirmed that yawning is particularly contagious between friends and family, but that women are twice as likely to ‘catch’ a yawn than men.

Rather than pointing to one sex being more impressionable than the other, the new research concludes it's down to women having more empathy.

yawning rex features

She's just got so much empathy

The study, published in the journal Royal Society Open Science, observed participants “in their natural environment” and said the individuals were unaware of being watched.

Over a period of five years, 1,461 bouts of yawning were observed (which sounds low to those of us constantly sucking in oxygen at our desks, but fine) and revealed a difference between the sexes.

The rate of yawn-catching was “significantly lower between acquaintances than between friends and family members, and significantly higher in women than in men. These results not only confirm that yawn contagion is sensitive to social closeness, but also that the phenomenon is affected by the same gender bias affecting empathy.”

Women are believed to have evolved empathy skills beyond men's in line with the traditionally female role of caregiver. According to the team, facial mimicry such as contagious yawning is a behavioural manifestation of empathy.

kim kardashian rex features yawning

Sometimes it's not catching. Sometimes you're just well bored.

Elisabetta Palagi, from the University of Pisa, Italy, who led the research, said of the results: “The degree of social bonding between individuals is important for contagious yawning, but so is gender. These two variables interact with one another to influence whether someone is likely to take part in contagious yawning.

“Women are much more empathic than men in several aspects of their lives and this has a biological basis because women have evolved for maternal care. Our question was: if females are more empathic than males, can we use contagious yawning as an indicator of this empathy? The answer is yes.”

The study concluded: “This result further supports the empathic ground of yawn contagion, in the light of the existing psychological, clinical and neurobiological evidence in favour of higher empathic abilities of women compared with men.”

So there you have it: science has basically confirmed we're simply better people. “No, no, nothing to do with my ill-advised weeknight pub crawl, I think you'll find I'm just really amazing at sharing and understanding the nuanced feelings of others.”

Images: Rex Features / Thinkstock

Related

opener_rt.jpg

How to jet lag-proof yourself inside and out

ThinkstockPhotos-483053740.jpg

New study shows dogs understand human emotions

focus.jpg

Struggling to concentrate at work? You could be a genius

ThinkstockPhotos-177787885.jpg

There's a really simple way to improve your job interview chances

facebook.JPG

How this one “honest signal” on Facebook could affect your career

rexfeatures_3737302e.jpg

Science has good news for women with four or more tattoos

glee-cast.jpg

The ultimate way to bond with people and make new friends

ThinkstockPhotos-122604589.jpg

The one life-changing tip that will help you cope with stress

rexfeatures_4587531b.jpg

Study suggests men only like the idea of dating smart women

Comments

More

How it feels to be a woman in America right now

"There is a sense of impending doom"

02 Dec 2016

Viewers slam Eamonn Holmes for ‘sexist’ treatment of GBBO's Candice

“He’s making me so uncomfortable – poor Candice”

by Kayleigh Dray
02 Dec 2016

The 12 surprising health benefits of mulled wine

Mulled wine, how do we love thee? Let us count the ways…

by Kayleigh Dray
02 Dec 2016

Pensioner, 89, offered bar job after "stop me dying from boredom" ad

We love a story with a happy ending

by Kayleigh Dray
02 Dec 2016

Bake Off fans, you can now apply to be on Channel 4’s GBBO

On your marks, get set, baaaaake…

by Kayleigh Dray
02 Dec 2016

Inventor of new £5 note brands vegans “stupid” over animal fat debate

"It's stupid. It's absolutely stupid."

by Sarah Biddlecombe
02 Dec 2016

Baby it’s Cold Outside has been given a feminist makeover

The troubling Christmas song has been transformed into an epic consent anthem

by Kayleigh Dray
02 Dec 2016

You’d be more productive if you could work from a café, study finds

Tell your boss.

by Moya Crockett
02 Dec 2016

The best low-alcohol swaps for your favourite beers, wines and spirits

Time for a booze-not-booze?

by Amy Swales
01 Dec 2016

Dorchester issues “disgusting” list of beauty demands to female staff

Women have been told to shave their legs and wear full make-up

by Sarah Biddlecombe
01 Dec 2016