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What It Means If He Doesn’t Yawn When You Yawn

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This Easy Psychopath Test Will Tell You If He Has A Personality Disorder
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It's not good.

You are sitting at home, watching TV. You yawn. Your partner tries to resist, but can't, and soon he or she yawns, too. It's not just in your head: Yawning is contagious, not just in humans but in many species. It's even contagious between us and our dogs.

Empathy is one of the core psychological factors that lead to catching yawns, a critical point underpinning a new study indicating that psychopaths may be immune to contagious yawns. Psychopathy is defined, in part, by a lack of empathy. Could this make people with the trait impervious to their peers' yawns?


RELATED: 10 Subtle Signs You (Or Someone You Love) Is An Actual Psychopath


Researchers at Baylor University had 135 subjects take the Psychopathic PersonalityInventory-Revised (PPI-R) and then exposed them to a contagious yawn experiment (this, apparently, is a thing, which is awesome). The Coldheartedness part of the psychopathy scale was strongly tied to whether the person yawned. The more coldhearted a person was (i.e., the less empathetic), the less likely they were to catch a yawn.

A lack of empathy has already been known to relate to immunity to contagious yawning. Studies have shown, for example, that children on the autism spectrum are less likely to catch a yawn. But this is the first study to show its link to psychopathy.

Empathy may not be the only trait at play. Psychopaths also exhibit fearlessness as a typical trait. The researchers tested their subjects to measure how easily they startled; psychopaths would startle less. They found that the less likely someone is to startle, they less likely they are to catch a yawn.

Of course, this is not a diagnostic tool for psychopathy, but it is an interesting connection, showing how these personality traits affect various behaviors in unexpected ways.*

So, if you yawn and your partner never seems to yawn back, reflect for a moment on his or her empathy in other situations, and consider if something more serious may be lurking.

RELATED: How To Spot A Psychopath Through 5 Telltale Traits (Says Science)


Jen Golbeck is an associate professor at the University of Maryland in College Park and is Director of the Human-Computer Interaction Lab.

This article was originally published at Psychology Today. Reprinted with permission from the author.

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