People that score high on psychopathic traits are less likely to yawn contagiously

Sci Rep. 2021 Dec 10;11(1):23779. doi: 10.1038/s41598-021-03159-1.


Considerable variation exists in the contagiousness of yawning, and numerous studies have been conducted to investigate the proximate mechanisms involved in this response. Yet, findings within the psychological literature are mixed, with many studies conducted on relatively small and homogeneous samples. Here, we aimed to replicate and extend upon research suggesting a negative relationship between psychopathic traits and yawn contagion in community samples. In the largest study of contagious yawning to date (N = 458), which included both university students and community members from across 50 nationalities, participants completed an online study in which they self-reported on their yawn contagion to a video stimulus and completed four measures of psychopathy: the primary and secondary psychopathy scales from the Levenson Self-Report Psychopathy Scale (LSRPS), the psychopathy construct from the Dirty Dozen, and the Psychopathic Personality Traits Scale (PPTS). Results support previous findings in that participants that yawned contagiously tended to score lower on the combined and primary measures of psychopathy. That said, tiredness was the strongest predictor across all models. These findings align with functional accounts of spontaneous and contagious yawning and a generalized impairment in overall patterns of behavioral contagion and biobehavioral synchrony among people high in psychopathic traits.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Data Analysis
  • Disease Susceptibility
  • Emotions
  • Female
  • Geography, Medical
  • Global Health
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mental Disorders / diagnosis
  • Mental Disorders / epidemiology*
  • Mental Disorders / etiology*
  • Odds Ratio
  • Population Surveillance
  • Quantitative Trait, Heritable*
  • Social Behavior
  • Yawning*
  • Young Adult