Posted by & filed under Clinical Neuropsychology, General Psychology, Neuroscience, Physiology, Psychological Disorders, Social Influence, Treatment of Psychological Disorders.

Description: So what are echophenomena? Well if you don’t know, think about yawning. Have you noticed how it seems that when one person yawns the people around them will also yawn? Now it may be that they are ALL sleep deprived, bored, too warm etc. etc…. but, in fact it may simply be that yawns are contagious. If you are not aware of this go to this link ( ) and watch the video clip and see if you yawn. I bet you do, or if you don’t you may still have to stifle a yawn or otherwise come pretty close to yawning. So why are yawns contagious? What are your hypotheses as to why? There may be social factors but what about at the neurological level? What is it about or in our brains that triggers a yawn when we simply observe someone else yawning? No idea? Well you are not alone. Read the article linked below to see what some neuro-psychological researchers in this area are thinking and looking at and to see how yawns might tell us some potential very useful things about other echophenomena.

Source: Yawning: Why is it contagious and why should it matter? ScienceDaily and the University of Nottingham.

Date: August 31, 2017

Photo Credit:  Garrincha/Fotolia

Links:  Article Link —

So yawning is one of potentially quite a few echophenomena.  At the core of echophenomena may be neutrally based response inhibition functions or systems in the brain that inhibit responding. Seeing someone else yawning seems to override our ability to not yawn or to inhibit yawning. Understanding those mechanisms at the neural level could lead us to treatments for disorders that involve other losses of inhibition such as epilepsy, Tourette’s syndrome, ADHD, or epilepsy. It is one of many neural “control systems” neuropsychologists are trying to better understand and, through that new understanding, develop better management strategies or treatments.

Questions for Discussion:

  1. What do yawning when others yawn around us and epilepsy have in common?
  2. Can you think of any social factors that might be associated with contagious yawning?
  3. What sorts of treatment opportunities might arise from a better understanding of the neural mechanisms involved in echophenomena?

References (Read Further):

Schürmann, M., Hesse, M. D., Stephan, K. E., Saarela, M., Zilles, K., Hari, R., & Fink, G. R. (2005). Yearning to yawn: the neural basis of contagious yawning. Neuroimage, 24(4), 1260-1264.

Georgina M. Jackson et al. A neural basis for contagious yawning. Current Biology, August 2017 DOI: 10.1016/j.cub.2017.07.062

Senju, A., Maeda, M., Kikuchi, Y., Hasegawa, T., Tojo, Y., & Osanai, H. (2007). Absence of contagious yawning in children with autism spectrum disorder. Biology letters, 3(6), 706-708.

Holle, H., Warne, K., Seth, A. K., Critchley, H. D., & Ward, J. (2012). Neural basis of contagious itch and why some people are more prone to it. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 109(48), 19816-19821.

Harr, A. L., Gilbert, V. R., & Phillips, K. A. (2009). Do dogs (Canis familiaris) show contagious yawning?. Animal cognition, 12(6), 833-837.

Palagi, E., Leone, A., Mancini, G., & Ferrari, P. F. (2009). Contagious yawning in gelada baboons as a possible expression of empathy. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 106(46), 19262-19267.