Contagious yawning in chimpanzees
by J. Anderson, M. Myowa-Yamakoshi, and T. Matsuzawa
in Proc. R. Soc. Lond. B (Suppl)
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Six adult chimpanzees were shown video scenes of chimpanzees
repeatedly yawning or of chimpanzees showing open-mouth facial expressions
that were not yawns.
Two out of the six females showed significantly higher frequencies of yawning
in response to yawn videos; no chimpanzees showed the inverse. Three infant chimpanzees that accompanied their mothers did not yawn at all.
These data are highly reminiscent of the contagious yawning effects
reported for humans.
Contagious yawning is thought to be based on the capacity for empathy.
Contagious yawning in chimpanzees provides further evidence that these apes
may possess advanced self-awareness and empathetic abilities.
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