The Most Contagious of Them All

One great, no.. AWESOME thing about the beginning of summer is this lull in between school ending and work beginning: the little hiatus where you get to sleep in, stay up late, and ruin your sleeping schedule. And what a sweet time it is. As our energy levels begin to rise, the number of yawns we indulge in begins to decrease. Something we all know through experience is that yawns are contagious – possibly even more contagious than using baby talk around puppies. Seriously.

So I wanted to know what exactly is infecting both me and my fellow peers. Why is it that when we see someone yawn, whether they are right in front of us or across the room, we suddenly feel the urge to follow?

Luckily,this yawn was aimed in the wrong direction and our bearded friend remained immune.

After some quick research, the easiest answer I can give you is that….no one knows. Scientists have invested in studies over this same conundrum, and they still do not have a specific answer. What they did find out is that seeing someone yawn temporarily deactivates the section of the brain that interprets facial expressions, the periamygdalar region. Basically, as we all could have figured out in less scientific terms, our responsive yawning is not a conscious decision.

Other theories suggest that a long, long, long time ago, yawns helped people communicate their alertness to others and allowed them to define sleep schedules. More sleep meant keeping more alert, which therefore meant staying safe. Another theory is that collective yawning is a subconscious group behavior. This type of synchronization is aimed toward keeping the masses safe, such as when an entire flock of birds flies into the air at the exact same moment.

No matter what it means, I hope you all are getting the rest you so you can jump into this busy summer. Sweet dreams and happy yawning.

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