Contagious Yawning, Empathy, and Their Relation to Prosocial Behavior

Franzen, Axel; Mader, Sebastian; Winter, Fabian (2018). Contagious Yawning, Empathy, and Their Relation to Prosocial Behavior. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 147(12), pp. 1950-1958. American Psychological Association 10.1037/xge0000422

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Humans express facial mimicry across a variety of actions. This article explores a distinct example, contagious yawning, and the links to empathy and prosocial behavior. Prior studies have suggested that there is a positive link between empathy and the susceptibility to contagious yawning. However, the existing evidence has been sparse and contradictory. We present results from 2 laboratory studies conducted with 171 (Study 1) and 333 (Study 2) student volunteers. Subjects were video-recorded while watching muted videos of individuals yawning, scratching, or laughing. Empathy was measured using the Interpersonal Reactivity Index. Although subjects imitated all facial expressions to large extents, our studies show that only contagious yawning was related to empathy. Subjects who yawned in response to observing others yawn exhibited higher empathy values by half a standard deviation. However, we found no evidence that the susceptibility to contagious yawning is directly related to prosocial behavior.

Item Type:

Journal Article (Original Article)

Division/Institute:

03 Faculty of Business, Economics and Social Sciences > Social Sciences > Institute of Sociology

UniBE Contributor:

Franzen, Axel and Mader, Sebastian

Subjects:

300 Social sciences, sociology & anthropology

ISSN:

0096-3445

Publisher:

American Psychological Association

Language:

English

Submitter:

Sebastian Mader

Date Deposited:

29 May 2018 15:34

Last Modified:

04 Dec 2018 01:31

Publisher DOI:

10.1037/xge0000422

Uncontrolled Keywords:

contagious yawning, empathy, prosocial behavior, social coordination, mimicry

BORIS DOI:

10.7892/boris.116784

URI:

https://boris.unibe.ch/id/eprint/116784

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