Study Says Psychopaths Are Immune To Contagious Yawning

Aug 19, 2015 11:02 PM EDT | By Maria Leonila Masculino

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Psychopaths are callous people who are known to be pathological liars that charm and manipulate others into getting what they want. According to a new study, their lack of empathy immunes them to contagious yawning, a natural social behaviour regular people possess.

If you think catching a yawn from somebody is awkward, don't. Humans have that social bond to empathize with those who feel tired and sleepy. One way to prove it is finding ourselves yawning whenever we see somebody yawning too. According to science, even animals exhibit this trait too.

Psychopaths, however, have the power to resist it.

Researchers from Baylor University in Texas conducted a study to confirm this hypothesis. Questionnaires were filled out by 135 students to probe on their psychopathic tendencies such as callousness, cold-heartedness, Machiavellianism, impulsivity, and egocentricity. Students were then gathered to watch videos of people displaying various facial movements including yawning.

Authors of the study found out that those who were positive in having psychopathic traits as diagnosed in the Psychopathy Diagnosis questionnaire reportedly were less likely to catch a yawn.

"Psychopaths are partly defined by lack of empathy and compassionate understanding of the feelings of others," Baylor University doctoral researcher Brian Rundle, one of the researchers told Huffington Post in an email. "The fact that they aren't able to contagious yawn suggests that the mechanics involved in the empathy process aren't functioning normally." 

There are some factors, however, suggesting that resistance to yawning doesn't necessarily make one a psychopath.

"We can't say that if you don't yawn, you're a psychopath," Rundle pointed out. "But it does give neuroscientists a better understanding of the mechanisms involved in both psychopathy and yawning independently, as well as in relation to each other."

This study will soon be published in the journal Personality and Individual Differences in November.

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