les articles sur la contagion du
articles about contagious
- Contagious yawning may be a useful measure
of social psychological functioning, and thus it
is important to evaluate the variables
influencing its expression in laboratory
settings. Previous research has documented that
humans yawn less frequently in crowded
environments and when under direct observation,
but the impact of social presence on contagious
yawning remains unknown. Here we present the
first study to systematically alter the degree
of social presence experienced by participants
in the laboratory to determine its effect on
contagious yawning frequency. Our results
demonstrate that both implied and actual social
presence significantly diminish yawn contagion
in comparison to a control condition, indicating
a key social component to contagious yawning.
These findings provide a framework for pursuing
additional research investigating the social
factors influencing contagious yawning, while
also offering applications for measuring this
response in laboratory settings.
- Contagious yawning may be a useful measure
of social psychological functioning, and thus it
is important to evaluate the variables in
uencing its expression in laboratory settings.
Previous research has documented that humans
yawn less frequently in crowded environments and
when under direct observation, but the impact of
social presence on contagious yawning remains
unknown. Here we present the rst study to
systematically alter the degree of social
presence experienced by participants in the
laboratory to determine its e ect on contagious
yawning frequency. Our results demonstrate that
both implied and actual social presence signi
cantly diminish yawn contagion in comparison to
a control condition, indicating a key social
component to contagious yawning. These ndings
provide a framework for pursuing additional
research investigating the social factors in
uencing contagious yawning, while also o ering
applications for measuring this response in
- Yawning is characterized by a powerful
gaping of the jaw with inspiration, a brief
period of peak muscle contraction, and a passive
closure of the jaw with shorter expiration1.
Although seemingly indistinguishable in the
motor pattern, yawns are elicited in two
distinct ways. Unlike spontaneous yawning, which
is triggered physiologically perhaps due to
modified arousal or state changes associated
with brain temperature fluctuations2,3,4,
contagious yawning is psychologically driven by
sensing or thinking about the action. While
spontaneous yawning appears to be widespread
among vertebrates5, thus far only humans and a
limited number of non-human species have been
documented to yawn contagiously.
- Interest in contagious yawning has grown
substantially in recent years, following studies
linking individual differences in this response
to various measures of perspective taking and
empathic processing14,15. The development of
this empathic modeling hypothesis has led to
research using contagious yawning as a potential
dependent measure for assessing empathy in both
typically developing and clinical populations.
Most recently, it has been reported that
individuals scoring higher on a psychopathic
personality inventory showed reduced contagious
yawning16. Initial reports on the absence of
contagious yawning in children with autism
spectrum disorder also supported this connection
to empathy17,18,19, but subsequent research
shows that this result may be a consequence of
the reduced tendency for these individuals to
attend to others' faces20,21. In addition, at
least one study has failed to demonstrate a
correlation between empathy and contagious
yawning in healthy populations22. A positive
connection between contagious yawning and social
closeness/affiliation has been reported in a
number of studies8,9,10,23,24,25,26,27,28,
though it appears to be age-dependent (i.e.,
juveniles fail to show this effect)29,30 and at
least three studies have failed to demonstrate
this relationship in adult populations13,31,32.
Consequently, the link between contagious
yawning and empathy requires further
investigation. Nonetheless, the use of
contagious yawning could still prove useful for
studying social psychological development if a
clear social link was established.
- Previous research has demonstrated that a
variety of behavioral responses in both humans
and non-human animals can be modulated as a
function of social presence, a phenomenon
sometimes known as the audience effect33,34,35.
Furthermore, under brief periods of social
crowding, human and non-human primates often
limit forms of social interaction (i.e., the
elevator effect)36. To date, the social
variables influencing the expression of
contagious yawning in humans are relatively
unknown. Although previous research has reported
that yawning frequency is less common among
humans in naturally crowded environments5 and in
participants being observed by a researcher in
the laboratory37, the impact of social presence
on contagious yawning has yet to be formally
investigated. Here we present the first study to
systematically alter the type of social presence
experienced by participants in the laboratory to
determine its effect on contagious yawning
- One of the defining attributes of research
on social presence effects is the wide array of
stimuli, other than actual people, that have
been demonstrated to induce it (e.g., images of
eyes38,39; video cameras40,41; eye
trackers42,43). This has led to a critical
distinction between two broad types of social
presence effects: implied social presence
effects and actual social presence effects. In
the current experiment we investigate the social
component to contagious yawning by presenting
stimuli that varied in their degree of social
presence. In particular, we compared contagious
yawning in an "alone" condition with that
behavior in the presence of an image of eyes, a
webcam without instructions that it was
recording, a webcam with instructions that it
was recording, and, finally, an actual person.
Thus, the former two manipulations (i.e., eyes,
webcam_+_no instructions) merely suggest that
the participant is being watched, whereas in the
latter two (i.e., webcam with instruction, real
person) this notion is made more explicit. In
addition, in the case of the latter two
manipulations, where the notion that one is
being watched is made explicit, we can contrast
an implied presence (i.e., a recording webcam)
directly with an actual social presence (i.e., a
real person). How contagious yawning varies (if
at all) across these different types of social
presence will provide novel insight into the
influence and sensitivity of contagious yawning
to the presence of others.
- Overall these findings demonstrate that both
implied and actual social presence diminishes
contagious yawning in a laboratory setting, and
in doing so thus suggest that the social
environment plays a key role in the expression
of this behavior. Although the specific
mechanism(s) producing these effects were not
under investigation, we believe there are two
likely candidates. First, since yawning has been
linked with enhanced cortical arousal2, the
feeling of being watched could increase levels
of arousal to a point that would counteract
mechanisms normally triggering yawning. Second,
the social stigma associated with displaying
this behavior in the presence of others44 could
lead to the active inhibition of yawn contagion.
The increased urge to yawn without doing so in
conditions with greater social presence supports
the latter interpretation, but follow-up
research could attempt to disentangle the
physiological and psychological mechanisms
contributing to this effect.
- With respect to our comparisons between
different types of social presence
manipulations, the results clearly demonstrated
the importance of making the putative
"observation" explicit (i.e., there was little
effect of eyes or an inactive webcam) and,
interestingly, that once the observation is
explicit that there was effectively no
difference between an implied and actual social
presence (i.e., an active webcam and an actual
person), at least with respect to the
suppression of contagious yawning. The latter
effect conceptually replicates earlier
research40 and extends it to a new domain. One
potential explanation for this pattern of
results is that the influence of a social
presence is contingent on the conscious
activation in working memory of the idea that
one is being observed. With an explicit implied
social presence (i.e., a recording webcam, CCTV)
and an actual person present, this activation is
direct whereas in the case of eyes and an
inactive webcam this idea would require that the
individual spontaneously make an inference to
- The view that the influence of a social
presence requires conscious activation of the
idea that one is being observed draws some
support from recent research investigating eye
trackers as an implied social presence.
Specifically, Nasiopoulus et al.42 demonstrated
that eye tracker induced social presence
effects43 disappeared if participants wore the
eye tracker for a short time before the critical
part of the experiment but that it reappeared
if, right before that part of the experiment,
participants were reminded about the eye
tracker. One interpretation of this result is
that participants in the former condition, over
time, had "forgotten" that they were being
observed (i.e., the idea was no longer active in
working memory) and that in the latter condition
the reminder reactivated this idea. Whether a
similar pattern would be observed with an actual
social presence remains an open question for
- In conclusion, this investigation
provides a clear link between social presence
and contagious yawning, and as such has direct
applications for the design of future studies
utilizing contagious yawning as a dependent
variable45. In particular, since observation
cues and recording devices inhibit contagious
yawning, future research should control for
these factors when seeking to maximize this
response. Furthermore, the present study lays
the groundwork for further investigations of the
effect of social factors on contagious yawning
in humans. The current findings support the
validity of previous research that has suggested
connections with contagious yawning and measures
of social cognition, meaning that future studies
could explore how individual differences in
empathic processing and personality relate to
this response. Considering humans display a
familiarity bias for contagious yawning (i.e.,
people yawn more frequently following yawns of
friends and family members in comparison to
yawns of acquaintances and strangers)24,
follow-up studies could also investigate whether
the inhibitory social presence effects that we
observed in the present study are modulated by
the nature of interpersonal relationships.
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