The core-to-core program of JSPS
The Fourth HOPE International Seminar

Yawning in Primates: From Reflex to Reflection

Date: July 20th 1700-1800
Place: Primate Research Institute

Speaker: Dr. James Anderson, The University of Stirling, United Kingdom

I will present three sets of data concerning yawning in human and nonhuman primates. First, the ability of adult male macaques to voluntarily control the production of yawns will be described. This finding provides further evidence that monkeys may co-opt reflexive acts into their communicatory repertoire. Next, the development of contagious yawning in human children will be shown. Surprisingly, children below the age of 5 years do not show contagious yawning in situations known to induce the phenomenon in adults. 
It is possible that individual difference in empathy are related to readiness to show contagious yawning. Finally, I will introduce new data showing contagious yawning in chimpanzees. Like humans, chimpanzees show individual differences and a developmental change in this behaviour. I will speculate on the implications of these findings for the phylogenetic distribution of self-awareness and empathic ability.


(1) On reinforcement of yawning in male macaques:
Louboungou, M., & Anderson, J. R. (1987). Yawning, scratching, and 
protruded lips: Differential conditionability of natural acts in pigtail 
monkeys (Macaca nemestrina). Primates, 28, 367-375.
Anderson, J. R., & Wunderlich, D. (1988). Food-reinforced yawning in Macaca 
tonkeana. American Journal of Primatology, 16, 165-169.

(2) On contagious yawning in children:
Anderson, J. R., & Meno, P. (2003). Psychological influences on yawning in 
children. Current Psychology Letters: Behaviour, Brain & Cognition, 11 (2),

(3) On contagious yawning in chimpanzees:
Anderson, J. R., Myowa-Yamakoshi, M., & Matsuzawa, T. (2004). Contagious 
yawning in chimpanzees. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London, Biology 
Letters (in press).