Dogs catch human yawns

  • Joly-Mascheroni R
  • Senju A
  • Shepherd A
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Abstract

This study is the first to demonstrate that human yawns are possibly contagious to domestic dogs (Canis familiaris). Twenty-nine dogs observed a human yawning or making control mouth move-ments. Twenty-one dogs yawned when they observed a human yawning, but control mouth movements did not elicit yawning from any of them. The presence of contagious yawning in dogs suggests that this phenomenon is not specific to primate species and may indicate that dogs possess the capacity for a rudimentary form of empathy. Since yawning is known to modulate the levels of arousal, yawn contagion may help coordinate dog–human interaction and communication. Understanding the mecha-nism as well as the function of contagious yawn-ing between humans and dogs requires more detailed investigation.

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Authors

  • R. M Joly-Mascheroni

  • A. Senju

  • A. J Shepherd

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