Researchers from the University of Pisa have discovered that women are twice as likely to catch a yawn compared to their male counterparts.
The study, led by the University’s Dr Elisabetta Palagi, saw the observation of 1,461 yawning spells in everyday situations over a five-year period. None of the study’s participants were aware they were being watched, and from the results, researchers were able to conclude that women were approximately twice as likely to ‘catch’ a yawn then men.
They found that yawning is often a response to someone else doing the same thing, which demonstrates our ability to empathise – and the phenomena is more common amoungst women than men.
Although men and women yawn spontaneously at the same rate, women are more likely to ‘return’ someone’s yawn because they’re better at picking up on how others are doing.
Experts secretly studied people in hundreds of different social situations and concluded that women unconsciously mimic the emotional state of others through yawning and facial expressions, and if participants returned someone else’s yawn within three minutes, that showed they were particularly tuned in to the thoughts and feelings of others.
The rates of contagion were also lower between acquaintances than between friends and family members.
Explaining the results, the study authors said the behaviour was also displayed in animals that live in extreme proximity with one another such as such as chimps, dogs and wolves, and added: ‘These results not only confirm that yawn contagion is sensitive to social closeness, but also that the phenomenon is affected by the same gender bias affecting empathy.’
So basically, if you’re tired, female and with your mates, one yawn is more likely to set you all off than if you’re a bloke at work.