Dogs are susceptible to contagious yawning just like people, says an article in Animal Cognition, but only after they get older. Dogs, like humans, show a gradual development of susceptibility to contagious yawning and the new paper says dogs catch yawns from humans. But Only dogs above seven months of age catch these human yawns - younger dogs are immune to the contagion.
Contagious yawning has been researched in humans, adult chimpanzees, baboons and dogs, some speculate it can be used as a measure of empathy. Empathy, mimicking the emotional responses of others, is difficult to measure directly, but contagious yawning allows assessment of a behavioral empathetic response, the Swedish researchers say.
Elainie Alenkær Madsen, PhD, and Tomas Persson, PhD, of the Cognitive Zoology Group at Lund University, engaged 35 dogs in Denmark, aged between four and 14 months, in bouts of play and cuddling and observed the dogs' responses when a human repeatedly yawned or gaped or performed neither of the two expressions. Only dogs above seven months of age showed evidence of contagious yawning.
They note this pattern of development is consistent with that in humans, who also show a developmental increase in susceptibility to yawn contagion, beginning to yawn contagiously at the age of four, when a number of cognitive abilities, such as accurate identification of others' emotions, begin to clearly manifest. One interpretation that Madsen and Persson suggest is that the results reflect a general developmental pattern, shared by humans and other animals, in terms of affective empathy and the ability to identify others' emotions. Given that contagious yawning may be an empathetic response, the results suggest that empathy and the mimicry that may underlie it develop slowly over the first year of a dog's life.
The researchers say they may have transferred the emotion that yawning reflects (sleepiness) to the dogs, as nearly half of the dogs responded to yawning with a reduction in arousal, to the extent that the experimenter needed to prevent a number of dogs from falling asleep.
Research with adult humans and other primates suggest that individuals are more likely to yawn contagiously to those with whom they have close emotional bonds. Madsen and Persson tested the dogs with both an unfamiliar experimenter and their owner, but found no evidence that the puppies preferentially yawned in response to the yawns of the human with whom they were emotionally close. Since this is also the case for young human children, the researchers suggest that in species that show an empathy-based social modulatory effect on contagious yawning, this behavior only emerges at later stages of development.
CitationL Madsen EA, Persson T. Contagious yawning in domestic dog puppies (Canis lupus familiaris): the effect of ontogeny and emotional closeness on low-level imitation in dogs. Animal Cognition; DOI 10.1007/s10071-012-0568-9
- PHYSICAL SCIENCES
- EARTH SCIENCES
- LIFE SCIENCES
- SOCIAL SCIENCES
Subscribe to the newsletter
Stay in touch with the scientific world!
Know Science And Want To Write?
- Why An Extra Planet Can't Be Hidden Behind The Sun Or Above The South Pole
- My Applied National Security Paper. Being President Isn't For Idiots.
- Why Has Organic Farming Flatlined?
- Hugh Hefner's Wife Was Not Poisoned By Breast Implants
- Top Scientists Chastise Greenpeace
- SYRINA: A Trojan Horse For Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals?
- The Daily Physics Problem - 5
- "I try this one... I am a bit rusty, so my solution can be dramatically wrong. Given that B is uniform..."
- "wow! with a name like Wilhelmina Pelegrina, she can't do no wrong. also,some of the problems in..."
- "This is the best you could do? Golden Rice is in the public domain - the lack of any corporate..."
- "Dylan, okay first TL:DR, the answer is that for anything of 10 km upwards, months or a year or..."
- "Some more citations to work into the text later on:Eric Christensen, director of the UA's Catalina..."
- Cancer As Modern Lifestyle Disease? Only If There Was Processed Food 2 Million Years Ago
- Blood Test for Alzheimer’s: Close Or Hype?
- The Flavor Enhancing Molecule in Roasted Garlic Powder
- Pediatricians Should Provide Sex Ed, But Many Don’t
- Calico Cats Are A Walking Genetics Lesson
- Statins Could Help Prevent Some Pregnancy Ills
- An extraordinary standard: New NIST protein could spur biopharmaceutical innovation
- Early detection of leukemia patients' resistance to therapy
- Research reveals restorative justice reduces recidivism
- Recovery of dopamine function emerges with recovery from smoking
- Scientists call for increased federal investment in sustainable agriculture