For as long as we are with people closest to us we always experience the infectiousness of yawning. Either we infect them or they trigger our own yawning after seeing or hearing them yawn, which normally peaks in early morning or late evening.
It is said that the behavioral contagion of yawning is associated with the emphatic bond between people – meaning that contagious yawning occurs strongly when you are with close relatives (parents / children / grandchildren, brothers, stable couples), and decreases in friends, then acquaintances in (people connected only by a third, external, i.e. work or a friend in common) and reaches a minimum in the unknown.
It is of no surprise therefore, when University of Tokyo researchers came out in a published report saying that dogs are more responsive to their owners’ yawns than to a stranger’s yawn — a sign that dogs are more empathetic than previously understood.
Dogs are not only known to be man’s best friend, but being around its master all the time allows bonding to exist that makes their relationship as close as relatives are, if not closer.
Lead scientist Dr. Teresa Romero said: “Our study suggests that contagious yawning in dogs is emotionally connected in a way similar to humans.”
In the study, 25 dogs were observed in their owners’ homes. Researchers recorded their responses to watching their owners yawn, then watching an unfamiliar researcher yawn. The dogs yawn nearly fives times more often in response to their owners’ yawns.
Human and animal studies have shown that when two subjects share a close social connection, contagious yawning is more frequent.
The link between yawning and empathy in dogs has previously been linked to anxiety or stress.
In this study, Romero and her colleagues measured heart rate throughout the experiment. The rates stayed consistent in response to the dogs’ owners and strangers, indicating that stress is not a factor.