Babies Are Immune to Catching Yawns

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Babies and young children are immune to catching yawns.

A new study has revealed that babies and young children are immune to “catching” yawns until they reach the age of five years old.  Babies and young children are immune to “catching” yawns, scientists have discovered in new research that is shedding light on how the human brain develops as we grow up.

Is Yawning Uncontrollable and Contagious?

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Hanging out with Steve Platek will make you yawn. He’ll get you thinking about yawning, reading about yawning, and sooner or later, your mouth’s gaping. You can’t help it. “My favorite way to induce a yawn,” Platek says, “is a video clip of a good yawner paired with yawn audio.” Platek, a cognitive neuroscientist at Drexel University, alternately describes yawning as “a primitive unconscious mechanism” or something that’s “sweet,” “totally cool” or “awesome.” And he’s finally figuring out why it’s contagious.
Scientists (and everybody else) have known for decades that yawns are contagious, but they’ve never known why. Some think it’s an unconscious mirror effect – someone yawns, you yawn in response almost like a reflex. But Platek says he thinks it has to do with empathy. The way he sees it, the more empathetic you are, the more likely it is that you’ll identify with a yawner and experience a yawn yourself. In a recent study, Platek looked at contagious yawning in people with “high empathy,” “low empathy” and everything in between. He found that higher empathy meant more yawn-susceptible and lower empathy meant more yawn-immune.
But that wasn’t proof enough. So Platek put volunteers in M.R.I. machines and made them yawn again and again to pinpoint the areas of the brain involved. When their brains lighted up in the exact regions of the brain involved in empathy, Platek remembers thinking, “Wow, this is so cool!”
Some yawning researchers – of which there are few – have identified many types of yawns. There’s the contagious yawn, the I’m-tired yawn and the I-just-woke-up yawn. There’s the threat yawn, which is the my-teeth-are-bigger-than-yours yawn that’s so popular with primates. (“People do it, too,” says Platek, “but unfortunately, we don’t have scary teeth anymore.”) There’s also the sexual yawn. (One scientist claims that yawns are used in seduction.)
At some point, you have to wonder: why study yawning? It’s quirky, interesting, but not important, right? Wrong, says Platek. Nearly every species on the planet yawns: insects, fish, birds, reptiles, mammals. “Yawning is such a primitive neurological function,” Platek says, “it’s a window into what happened during the evolution of the brain.”
The good thing about yawning is that it’s not boring. “Scientists like me usually go to conferences and give talks about technical mumbo jumbo,” Platek says. “The audience always yawns, and we’re up there thinking, Oh, man, they’re so bored! But when I give a talk about yawning and they yawn, I think: Sweet! They’re paying attention!”

Several years ago, I took a remarkable psychology class from a professor whose interest in the field seemed to be motivated, at least in part, by a desire to unearth new tricks for beguiling the opposite sex. Ethical implications aside, his lectures were generously garnished with anecdotes that held his wide-eyed freshmen audience in rapt attention. Among the tips he shared was a psychologically based method for casually gauging just who might be checking you out in a crowded place: yawning. The theory goes that if you yawn, anyone who’s surreptitiously watching you won’t be able to resist yawning too, giving themselves away (and marking them as a susceptible target for wooing). (Pics) Continue reading… “Is Yawning Uncontrollable and Contagious?”

Smell Of Fear Is Real

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Being terrified is infectious

The smell of fear really does exist, according to a new study, which also suggests that being terrified is infectious.  The study, conducted by Dr Bettina Pause and colleagues at the University of Dusseldorf in Germany, suggests that people subconsciously detect whether others are scared by picking up chemicals they release from their bodies.

Continue reading… “Smell Of Fear Is Real”