Neither infants nor toddlers catch yawns from their mothers

Ailsa Millen, James R. Anderson

Abstract

This study aimed to clarify whether infants and preschool children show susceptibility to contagious yawning, a well-known effect that has been demonstrated experimentally in older children and adults by exposing them to video sequences showing yawns. In a first study, parents kept a log of their child's yawns for a one week period. None of the log entries reported any contagious yawns by the children. Although less frequent than in older children and adults, spontaneous yawning by infants and preschoolers showed the typical morning, post-wakening peak, and an increase before bedtime in the evening. In an experimental study, infants and preschoolers watched a presentation that included many images of yawning and a repeated video clip of their own mother yawning, but there was no evidence of contagious yawning. The results suggest that, even when witnessing yawns by someone with whom they have a strong and positive emotional relationship, very young children do not show contagious yawning.

  • Received October 14, 2010.
  • Accepted November 8, 2010.
View Full Text