Register for an account

X

Enter your name and email address below.

Your email address is used to log in and will not be shared or sold. Read our privacy policy.

X

Website access code

Enter your access code into the form field below.

If you are a Zinio, Nook, Kindle, Apple, or Google Play subscriber, you can enter your website access code to gain subscriber access. Your website access code is located in the upper right corner of the Table of Contents page of your digital edition.

Planet Earth

Dogs Catch Yawns From Their Owners. Does That Mean They Empathize with Us?

80beatsBy Valerie RossMay 15, 2012 10:45 PM
dogyawn.jpg

Newsletter

Sign up for our email newsletter for the latest science news

One sleepy person can start a bout of contagious yawning that quickly spreads through a room. But a new study suggests the effect may not be limited to the room's human inhabitants: Dogs can "catch" yawns from people, the study found---especially their owners, hinting that pooches may empathize with familiar people. When listening to recordings of people yawning, 12 of the 29 dogs in the study yawned themselves. It made a big difference, however, whom they heard: The dogs yawned more than four times as much when they heard their owner yawn as when they heard as a stranger. Earlier work has suggested a link between contagious yawning and empathy. Humans and chimps both yawn more when friends and acquaintances yawn than when strangers yawn, and people who don't have much insight into what others are feeling---such as very young children and people with autism---don't seem to catch contagious yawns. This is some of the strongest evident yet that dogs---humans' constant companions for 15,000 years---may be able to empathize with us. But a yawn alone can't tell us what's going on in a dog's brain, or its heart of hearts. A similar behavior doesn't necessarily mean a similar emotion underlying it: What looks like empathy could be something simpler, or something else entirely. [via ScienceNOW]

Image courtesy of Bruce Fingerhood / Flickr Creative Commons

3 Free Articles Left

Want it all? Get unlimited access when you subscribe.

Subscribe

Already a subscriber? Register or Log In

Want unlimited access?

Subscribe today and save 70%

Subscribe

Already a subscriber? Register or Log In