When it comes to female sleeping habits, the news is often negative. A recent study told us that when it comes to getting some shut-eye, women struggle in particular, and worse, aren’t inclined to do anything about it. But at last, on the subject of tiredness, we have some positive news.
Now a new study has confirmed that yawning is particularly contagious between friends and family (something that’s well established already), but that women are twice as likely to ‘catch’ a yawn than men. And the reason for this? Researchers believe this indicates a biological difference between the sexes in a woman’s ability to feel empathy – the capacity to understand and share the feelings of others.
The study, published in the journal Royal Society Open Science, observed participants “in their natural environment” and said the individuals were not aware they were being watched.
Over a period of five years, 1,461 bouts of yawning were observed between both sexes and ultimately revealed a marked difference between male and females yawning patterns.
“The rate of yawn-catching was significantly lower between acquaintances than between friends and family members, and considerably higher in women than in men. These results not only confirm that yawn contagion is sensitive to social closeness but also that the phenomenon is affected by the same gender bias affecting empathy,” explained the researchers.
Women are much more empathic than men in several aspects of their lives, and this has a biological basis because women have evolved in the roles as caregivers.
“The degree of social bonding between individual is important for contagious yawning, but so is gender. These two variables interact with one another to influence whether someone is likely to take part in contagious yawning,” said study author Elisabetta Palagi of the University of Pisa in Italy.
“Our question was, if females are more empathic than males, can we use contagious yawning as an indicator of this empathy? The answer is yes,” she said.
Props to science for basically confirming we’re just extra thoughtful people. The next time you’re caught yawning, instead of putting it down to your ill-advised late night, you can simply say you’re passing your emphatic thoughts around the office.
Via The Independent