Original article:

Yawning as a brain cooling mechanism: Nasal breathing and forehead cooling diminish the incidence of contagious yawning

Evolutionary Psychology 5(1): 92-101 Andrew C. Gallup, Department of Psychology, State University of New York at Albany, Albany, NY 12222, USAGordon G. Gallup Jr., Department of Psychology, State University of New York at Albany, gallup@albany.edu


We conducted two experiments that implicate yawning as a thermoregulatory mechanism. The first experiment demonstrates that different patterns of breathing influence susceptibility to contagious yawning. When participants were not directed how to breathe or were instructed to breathe orally (inhaling and exhaling through their mouth), the incidence of contagious yawning in response to seeing videotapes of people yawning was about 48%. When instructed to breathe nasally (inhaling and exhaling through their nose), no participants exhibited contagious yawning. In a second experiment, applying temperature packs to the forehead also influenced the incidence of contagious yawning. When participants held a warm pack (460C) or a pack at room temperature to their forehead while watching people yawn, contagious yawning occurred 41% of the time. When participants held a cold pack (40C) to their forehead, contagious yawning dropped to 9%. These findings suggest that yawning has an adaptive/functional component that it is not merely the derivative of selection for other forms of behavior.


yawning, contagious yawning, nasal breathing, forehead cooling, brain temperature, thermoregulation, information processing, group vigilance.

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Evolutionary Psychology - An open access peer-reviewed journal - ISSN 1474-7049 © Ian Pitchford and Robert M. Young; individual articles © the author(s)

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