Like eating (cf. Schachter, 1970), yawning
is an everyday phenomenon which can be both
internally (i.e., due to weariness) and
externally (e.g., seeing someone else yawn)
elicited. The present study was designed
(a) to demonstrate the existence of the
externally produced "social" yawn, and
(b) to investigate the role of individual
differences in susceptibility to the contagious
Thirty introductory psychology students
(Rotter-I-E and Barron independence of judgment
data available for all) participated
individually in a "first impressions" study.
Twenty subjects (randomly assigned) viewed a
10-minute video tape of an individual who yawned
four times while "free-associating" to an
abstract symbol; the remaining ten subjects saw
a similar no-yawn tape. Subject yawning was
covertly observed through an apparently
curtained one-way mirror.
Afterwards subjects rated both their own
degree of weariness and boredom and the
"personality characteristics" of the
free-associater. The experimenter then
introduced additional information about the tape
person (the "free-associations" he made) and
asked subjects to rate them again "to see ho
much your impressions change." (Rating
differences were intended to reflect
suscptibility to demand characteristics.)
Finally, subjects were weighed (% overweight
determined) and debriefed (none were
Yawn tape subjects were more likely to yawn
(Fisher's exact p = .012, one-tailed) and yawned
more frequently ( <.05, one-tailed) than
no-yawn tape subjects, thus demonstrating
social, contagious yawning.
Within the yawn tape condition, yawners
scored as more external and less independent of
judgment, were more overweight, and yielded to
demand characteristics more than yawn-resisters
(binomial p for 4 out of 4 predicted direction
differences = .0625), Only the Barron scale
data, however, reached significance ( <.05),
suggesting that this scale tapped the most
relevant social influence dimension.
Interestingly, yawners also rated themselves as
drowsier ( <.07) and more bored (<.05)
than resisters, indicative of a selfattribution
process akin to that described by Laird
Conclusions and Implications: These results
suggest that the same factors important in more
traditional social influence settings are also
active in the contagion of social behaviors like
yawning. In particular, individuals who conform
in an Asch paradigm, who are identifiable by the
Barron test (Barron, 1953), appear to also be
the individuals most susceptible to contagious
yawning. One may speculate further as to
parallels between yawning and the influence
process; for example, credibility of the model
yawner could affect degree of contagion.
Barron F. Some personality correlates of
independence of judgment. J Personality. 1953
Answer the following questions by
circling T (True) or F (False).
Please answer all
1. T or F What the youth needs most is
strict discipline, rugged determination, and the
will to work and fight for family and
2. T or F Some of my friends think that my
ideas are impractical, if not a bit wild.
3. T or F Kindness and generosity are the
most important qualities for a wife to
4. T or F I have seen some things so sad
that I almost felt like crying.
5. T or F I don't understand how men in some
European contries can be so demonstrative to one
6. T or F I must admit that I would find it
hard to have for a close friend a person whose
manners or appearance made him somewhat
repulsive, no matter how brilliant or kind he
7. T or F A person should not probe too
deeply into his own and other peoples' feelings,
but take things as they are.
8. T or F I could cut my moorings--quit my
home, family, and friends-without suffering
9. T or F I prefer team games to games in
which one individual competes against
10. T or F What this country needs most,
more than laws and political programs, is a few
courageous, tireless, devoted leaders in whom
the people can put their faith.
11. T or F I acquired a strong interest in
intellectual and aesthetic matters from my
12. T or F Human nature being what it is,
there will always be war and conflict.
13. T or F I believe you should ignore other
peopls faults and make an effort to get along
with almost everyone.
14. T or F The best theory is the one that
has the best practical applications.
15. T or F I like to fool around with new
ideas, even if they turn out later to be a total
waste of time.
16, T or F The unfinished and the imperfect
often have greater appeal for me than the
completed and polished.
17. T or F I would rather have a few intern
friendships than a great many friendly but
18. T or F Perfect balance is he essence of
all good composition.
19, T or F Science should have as much to
say about moral values as religion does. ,
20. T or F The happy person tends always to
be poised, courteous, outgoing, and emotionally
21. T or F Young people sometimes get
rebellious ideas, but as they grow up they ought
to get over them and settle down.
22. T or F It is easy for me to take orders
and do what I am told.