An investigation of auditory contagious yawning Academic Article uri icon


  • Despite a widespread familiarity with the often compelling urge to yawn after perceiving someone else yawn, an understanding of the neural mechanism underlying contagious yawning remains incomplete. In the present auditory fMRI study, listeners used a 4-point scale to indicate how much they felt like yawning following the presentation of a yawn, breath, or scrambled yawn sound. Not only were yawn sounds given significantly higher ratings, a trait positively correlated with each individual's empathy measure, but relative to control stimuli, random effects analyses revealed enhanced hemodynamic activity in the right posterior inferior frontal gyrus (pIFG) in response to hearing yawns. Moreover, pIFG activity was greatest for yawn stimuli associated with high as opposed to low yawn ratings and for control sounds associated with equally high yawn ratings. These results support a relationship between contagious yawning and empathy and provide evidence for pIFG involvement in contagious yawning. A supplemental figure for this study may be downloaded from

publication date

  • September 2009