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Yawn and the whole world yawns with you. (Behaviour).

If you yawn when someone else does it shows you have a heart of gold. This is the latest theory on one of our least understood physical functions.

Dr Steven Platek and his team at Drexel University in Philadelphia, USA, reckon is all due to human empathy. The investigators found that people who are prone to 'infectious yawning' also score high in tests that measure goodwill towards one's fellow man.

Science into human physiology has long maintained, without solid evidence, that yawning is a symptom of tiredness or boredom, or as a means of relieving tension. Yawning provides a quick and intense intake of oxygen, indicating tiredness as the trigger.

To test 'fellow feeling' as an explanation for yawn infection Platek rounded up 65 volunteers who were taken to a movie theatre and there they watched films of people laughing, yawning or lacking in expression. Scientists watched the volunteers through one-way mirrors. Some 40% of the volunteers yawned when they saw people in the movies doing the same thing. When those volunteers were psychologically diagnosed, they were found to have strong empathy with others. Platek says the empathy trait is evolutionary and extends to our primate cousins. Only humans, chimpanzees and orang-utans are able to exhibit empathy.
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Publication:African Business
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:May 1, 2003
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