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Thread: Yawn........

  1. #1 Yawn........ 
    has lost interest seagypsy's Avatar
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    This has bugged me forever and it still bugs me every time I do it. What is the biological function of a yawn? And why are yawns contagious? For many, especially me, I need only to conceive the idea of a yawn in order to be biologically compelled to yawn. If I see someone yawn, hear the word "yawn", think the word "yawn", see an animal yawn or anything like that I am forced to yawn. Why is that? Has there been any research to find out why?


    Speaking badly about people after they are gone and jumping on the bash the band wagon must do very well for a low self-esteem.
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  3. #2  
    Life-Size Nanoputian Flick Montana's Avatar
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    I read this a while back for funsies: http://www.epjournal.net/wp-content/.../ep0592101.pdf


    "Sometimes I think the surest sign that intelligent life exists elsewhere in the universe is that none of it has tried to contact us." -Calvin
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  4. #3  
    has lost interest seagypsy's Avatar
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    maybe I am not understanding it correctly. it seems that it is suggesting that the biological purpose is to cool the brain pan. but that doesn't really explain, as far as i can tell, why it is contagious. Are they suggesting that we instinctively assume on some base level that if someone elses brain needs cooling, ours must also?

    Surely, I am misunderstanding something.
    Speaking badly about people after they are gone and jumping on the bash the band wagon must do very well for a low self-esteem.
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  5. #4  
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    My wife claims that, upon seeing evidence of dust in the air, off in the distance, (we live in the Desert Southwest), that I become sinus congested and begin sneezing.

    She cannot be right, can she?

    Yawning is much easier to demand into action than a sneeze. jocular
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  6. #5  
    has lost interest seagypsy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jocular View Post
    My wife claims that, upon seeing evidence of dust in the air, off in the distance, (we live in the Desert Southwest), that I become sinus congested and begin sneezing.

    She cannot be right, can she?

    Yawning is much easier to demand into action than a sneeze. jocular
    You mean something like a placebo affect, or hypochondria?
    Speaking badly about people after they are gone and jumping on the bash the band wagon must do very well for a low self-esteem.
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  7. #6  
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    The Aquatic Ape people had some ideas, you may not care to review.

    My guess it that the yawn mechanism - like our sense of needing oxygen - is a kludge. Something about the human brain short circuits evolution's tangled solution to yawning.
    A pong by any other name is still a pong. -williampinn
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  8. #7  
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    We yawn when another person yawns because it makes us aware of how bored we are.
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  9. #8  
    Life-Size Nanoputian Flick Montana's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by seagypsy View Post
    maybe I am not understanding it correctly. it seems that it is suggesting that the biological purpose is to cool the brain pan. but that doesn't really explain, as far as i can tell, why it is contagious. Are they suggesting that we instinctively assume on some base level that if someone elses brain needs cooling, ours must also?

    Surely, I am misunderstanding something.
    I don't really know. Why do we wince and grab our stomach when we see someone get hit in the gut?
    Last edited by Flick Montana; February 28th, 2013 at 11:13 AM.
    "Sometimes I think the surest sign that intelligent life exists elsewhere in the universe is that none of it has tried to contact us." -Calvin
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  10. #9  
    Ascended Member Ascended's Avatar
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    Now this is an interesting one, please bare in mind that everything that follows is purely my own supposition of what I thought my be the case but with no actual knowledge to back this up, I always kind of though yawns were about alertness. To me it seemed that people yawned for one of two reasons either they were tired or they were bored. So I got the impression that the yawn was the way of releasing endorphins to help mentally sharpen people up so they could maintain focus. I also thought the idea of yawns catching and being copied behaviour was similar to animals in the wild such as passing alert calls and such so as to maintain awareness of any potential dangers. It just seems natural to me that if we see other people trying to focus or concentrate then we would subconsciously feel this same need also and may as a result mimic each others yawning.
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  11. #10  
    Universal Mind John Galt's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Flick Montana View Post
    I don't really know. Why do we wince and grab out stomach when we see someone get hit in the gut?
    Really? I usually just hit them again in case the first blow hasn't incapacitated them.
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  12. #11  
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    Quote Originally Posted by seagypsy View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by jocular View Post
    My wife claims that, upon seeing evidence of dust in the air, off in the distance, (we live in the Desert Southwest), that I become sinus congested and begin sneezing.

    She cannot be right, can she?

    Yawning is much easier to demand into action than a sneeze. jocular
    You mean something like a placebo affect, or hypochondria?
    Maybe neither. She just claims I'm "nuts"! jocular
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  13. #12  
    Northern Horse Whisperer Moderator scheherazade's Avatar
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    Yawning is an involuntary response and interesting to observe in animals also. I have seen, dogs, cats, horses and foxes yawn and they most frequently perform a stretch while they are doing so. With these species, the yawn is most often observed upon awakening from a sleep or nap. According to research, fetuses as young as 11 weeks old have been observed to yawn in the womb, in an atmosphere devoid of oxygen so that adds another level of mystery to the phenomenon, which science does not yet definitively know the answer to.

    The first theory about communication is close to the mark, according to most scientific research. Some theories state that we yawn at night when we are tired and in the morning when we wake up, and the reasons are somewhat the same. Animals, including human beings, yawn when they are tired and when they are waking up to coordinate with others in their community or group. It could be that leaders of a group signal others that it is time to bed down for the night. One individual might also signal others that it is time to start the day.
    One thing that is definitely known about yawning is that it is involuntary, as mentioned. It causes animals to open their mouths and take a deep breath at particular times. Medical research has shown that even a fetus will yawn (as early as 11 weeks). Some have theorized that one person might yawn after seeing another do it, as a show of empathy. This fits with the idea mentioned earlier about group communication. Yawning does seem to be contagious, in this sense.

    Science has, in recent years, put forward the theory that yawning “cools the brain” if the brain is overheated. If the surrounding temperature and/or the body temperature are too high for comfort and efficient brain activity, we may yawn. Root causes for this activity can include exhaustion and lack of sleep, both of which may cause the temperature of the brain to increase. Apparently some who suffer from epilepsy and other neurological conditions might experience an excess of yawning.
    Why Do People Yawn?
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    Forum Radioactive Isotope zinjanthropos's Avatar
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    It's probably a mechanism the body uses to stay awake. Normally when yawning I am fighting off the urge to sleep because I am either not in a good position to do so or I don't wish to. Upon waking I yawn to fight against falling back to sleep. Perhaps a little injection of air is enough to ward off sleep, at least temporarily. Do people yawn in their sleep?
    All that belongs to human understanding, in this deep ignorance and obscurity, is to be skeptical, or at least cautious; and not to admit of any hypothesis, whatsoever; much less, of any which is supported by no appearance of probability...Hume
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  15. #14  
    Northern Horse Whisperer Moderator scheherazade's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by zinjanthropos View Post
    Do people yawn in their sleep?
    Yes. People do yawn in their sleep and it is sometimes an irritation to their partner as it interrupts their own sleep.

    Sleep Disorders Forum - yawning during sleep
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  16. #15  
    Forum Freshman Colonel Carter's Avatar
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    The yawn-reflex has lost its purpose, troughout time.
    The reflex dates from when ancient Homos where developing a bigger brainvolume. Because the reflex is quite recent, it is taught by copying other specimen. Our brains can get enough cooling, but the reflex is still buried within our autonomic brainnerves. The scientists suspect it will disappear over time (a couple thousand years).
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  17. #16  
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    Quote Originally Posted by Colonel Carter View Post
    The yawn-reflex has lost its purpose, troughout time.
    The reflex dates from when ancient Homos where developing
    Because women bored them with all their talking.
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  18. #17  
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    Hmm... As far as I know, it has 2 main functions. 1. higher concentration of oxygen (sometimes it is needed).
    2. signal your body that you are tired.
    But I am not sure (:
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  19. #18  
    Northern Horse Whisperer Moderator scheherazade's Avatar
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    I found another article related to yawning that mentions a couple of observations that I have not come across before.

    • Yawning stretches out the lungs and nearby tissues, preventing tiny airways in the lungs from collapsing. This could explain why yawning seems to occur around the time of shallow breathing (when tired, bored or just arising from bed).



    • Yawning distributes a chemical called surfactant, a gooey liquid that coats the tiny air pockets in the lungs and helps to keep them open. Adequate amounts and function of surfactant is critical to the ability of a newborn to survive outside the womb. This theory could explain why fetuses yawn during development, as they prepare to use their lungs.



    • Because yawning is associated with stretching of the muscles and joints and an increased heart rate, it may serve as a preparation for an increased level of alertness, especially after a period of relaxation. This could explain why athletes and professional musicians often find themselves yawning just before periods of increased focus or activity.
    What Are You Yawning About? - Medical Myths - Harvard Commentaries | Aetna InteliHealth
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  20. #19  
    Forum Masters Degree mat5592's Avatar
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    i would assume we yawn to obtain more oxygen. i also think i remember something about the firing of mirror neurons when we see someone else do it, making it "contagious." i'm not really sure.
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