If you don't find yourself catching other people's "contagious yawning," well, you might be a regular Patrick Bateman.
A new psychology study from Baylor University found that people with psychopathic characteristics are less likely to yawn than normal people. Basically, research shows that yawning after seeing someone else yawn is associated with social bonding and empathy, or traits that psychopaths -- who are antisocial, selfish, and manipulative, among other things -- lack, according to the study. Feeling self-conscious about yawning yet?
The study, published in the journal Personality and Individual Differences, included 135 college student respondents who were given a 156-question standard psychological test that claims to determine the respondent's level of self-centeredness, fearless dominance, and cold-heartedness, according to the university. Brian Rundle, lead researcher of the study, said being a psychopath isn't as simple as "on/off," but more of a "spectrum," thus the extensive questioning. After the psychological test, the students were equipped with noise-canceling headphones as well as electrodes and seated in a dim room in front of computers, where they were shown 10-second videos of facial movements such as yawns, laughs, and neutral faces. There was no mention of using Jeb Bush speeches.
Ultimately, the researchers combined the the psychological test results with the students' yawn frequency and other physiological responses during the videos, and found that the less empathy they had, the less likely the person was to “catch” a yawn. But does that mean you're a psychopath if you don't join the chorus of yawning? Not necessarily.
“The take-home lesson is not that if you yawn and someone else doesn’t, the other person is a psychopath,” Rundle said in a press release. “A lot of people didn’t yawn, and we know that we’re not very likely to yawn in response to a stranger we don’t have empathetic connections with."
However, Rundle said the "overlap" between psychopathy and contagious yawning is the starting point for more questions. And probably yawning. Yawn.
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