Find Information About:

Drugs & Supplements

Get information and reviews on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements. Search by name or medical condition.

Pill Identifier

Pill Identifier

Having trouble identifying your pills?

Enter the shape, color, or imprint of your prescription or OTC drug. Our pill identification tool will display pictures that you can compare to your pill.

Get Started
My Medicine

My Medicine

Save your medicine, check interactions, sign up for FDA alerts, create family profiles and more.

Get Started

WebMD Health Experts and Community

Talk to health experts and other people like you in WebMD's Communities. It's a safe forum where you can create or participate in support groups and discussions about health topics that interest you.

  • Second Opinion

    Second Opinion

    Read expert perspectives on popular health topics.

  • Community


    Connect with people like you, and get expert guidance on living a healthy life.

Got a health question? Get answers provided by leading organizations, doctors, and experts.

Get Answers

Sign up to receive WebMD's award-winning content delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up

Health & Balance

Font Size

Contagious Yawns May Show Social Bonds

Yawning Together May Be Sign of Empathy Between Friends and Family
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Laura J. Martin, MD

Dec. 8, 2011 -- Yawns may be contagious for good reason.

A new study suggests that yawning after someone else yawns may be a sign of social empathy and emotional bonds between family and friends.

Researchers found that people are more likely to respond to a yawn with another yawn if the other person is a family member or friend. Contagious yawns are least likely among strangers.

Why Yawns Are Contagious

In the study, researchers looked at what factors were associated with contagious yawns among 109 adults from four different continents who were observed in their natural settings.

During each observation period of several hours, researchers recorded when the person yawned and if anyone who saw the yawn responded with a yawn within three minutes.

The results showed that social bonds overrode social situation and nationality differences in explaining why yawns are contagious.

The likelihood of sharing a contagious yawn was greatest among family members, followed by friends and acquaintances. People were least likely to experience a contagious yawn with strangers.

Researchers say the phenomenon of contagious yawning may also be explained by human biology.

They say seeing another person yawning activates a complex network of brain regions related to movement, imitation, social behavior, and empathy. The brain networks of the person who sees a yawn by someone they care about may then become overstimulated and lead to a yawning response.

Today on WebMD

woman in yoga class
6 health benefits of yoga.
beautiful girl lying down of grass
10 relaxation techniques to try.
mature woman with glass of water
Do you really need to drink 8 glasses of water a day?
coffee beans in shape of mug
Get the facts.
Take your medication
Hand appearing to hold the sun
Hungover man
Welcome mat and wellington boots
Woman worn out on couch
Happy and sad faces
Fingertip with string tied in a bow
laughing family