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Chimpanzees show a developmental increase in susceptibility to contagious yawning: A test of the effect of ontogeny and emotional closeness on yawn contagion

Madsen, Elainie LU ; Persson, Tomas LU ; Sayehli, Susan LU ; Lenninger, Sara LU and Sonesson, Göran LU (2013) In PLoS ONE 8(10).
Abstract
Contagious yawning has been reported for humans, dogs and several non-human primate species, and associated with empathy in humans and other primates. Still, the function, development and underlying mechanisms of contagious yawning remain unclear. Humans and dogs show a developmental increase in susceptibility to yawn contagion, with children showing an increase around the age of four, when also empathy-related behaviours and accurate identification of others’ emotions begin to clearly evince. Explicit tests of yawn contagion in non-human apes have only involved adult individuals and examined the existence of conspecific yawn contagion. Here we report the first study of heterospecific contagious yawning in primates, and the ontogeny of... (More)
Contagious yawning has been reported for humans, dogs and several non-human primate species, and associated with empathy in humans and other primates. Still, the function, development and underlying mechanisms of contagious yawning remain unclear. Humans and dogs show a developmental increase in susceptibility to yawn contagion, with children showing an increase around the age of four, when also empathy-related behaviours and accurate identification of others’ emotions begin to clearly evince. Explicit tests of yawn contagion in non-human apes have only involved adult individuals and examined the existence of conspecific yawn contagion. Here we report the first study of heterospecific contagious yawning in primates, and the ontogeny of susceptibility thereto in chimpanzees, Pan troglodytes verus. We examined whether emotional closeness, defined as attachment history with the yawning model, affected the strength of contagion, and compared the contagiousness of yawning to nose-wiping. Thirty-three orphaned chimpanzees observed an unfamiliar and familiar human (their surrogate human mother) yawn, gape and nose-wipe. Yawning, but not nose-wiping, was contagious for juvenile chimpanzees, while infants were immune to contagion. Like humans and dogs, chimpanzees are subject to a developmental trend in susceptibility to contagious yawning, and respond to heterospecific yawn stimuli. Emotional closeness with the model did not affect contagion. The familiarity-biased social modulatory effect on yawn contagion previously found among some adult primates, seem to only emerge later in development, or be limited to interactions with conspecifics. The influence of the ‘chameleon effect’, targeted vs. generalised empathy, perspective-taking and visual attention on contagious yawning is discussed. (Less)
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author
organization
publishing date
type
Contribution to journal
publication status
published
subject
keywords
Contagious yawning, Contagion, Empathy, Chimpanzees, Development, Emotion
in
PLoS ONE
volume
8
issue
10
publisher
Public Library of Science
external identifiers
  • wos:000326019400048
  • pmid:24146848
  • scopus:84885692599
ISSN
1932-6203
DOI
10.1371/journal.pone.0076266
project
Precursors of Sign Use in Intersubjectivity and Imitation (PSUII)
language
English
LU publication?
yes
id
c89d980b-8eda-42ac-8fca-710c63271128 (old id 4091547)
date added to LUP
2013-10-14 13:54:35
date last changed
2017-08-06 04:05:23
@article{c89d980b-8eda-42ac-8fca-710c63271128,
  abstract     = {Contagious yawning has been reported for humans, dogs and several non-human primate species, and associated with empathy in humans and other primates. Still, the function, development and underlying mechanisms of contagious yawning remain unclear. Humans and dogs show a developmental increase in susceptibility to yawn contagion, with children showing an increase around the age of four, when also empathy-related behaviours and accurate identification of others’ emotions begin to clearly evince. Explicit tests of yawn contagion in non-human apes have only involved adult individuals and examined the existence of conspecific yawn contagion. Here we report the first study of heterospecific contagious yawning in primates, and the ontogeny of susceptibility thereto in chimpanzees, Pan troglodytes verus. We examined whether emotional closeness, defined as attachment history with the yawning model, affected the strength of contagion, and compared the contagiousness of yawning to nose-wiping. Thirty-three orphaned chimpanzees observed an unfamiliar and familiar human (their surrogate human mother) yawn, gape and nose-wipe. Yawning, but not nose-wiping, was contagious for juvenile chimpanzees, while infants were immune to contagion. Like humans and dogs, chimpanzees are subject to a developmental trend in susceptibility to contagious yawning, and respond to heterospecific yawn stimuli. Emotional closeness with the model did not affect contagion. The familiarity-biased social modulatory effect on yawn contagion previously found among some adult primates, seem to only emerge later in development, or be limited to interactions with conspecifics. The influence of the ‘chameleon effect’, targeted vs. generalised empathy, perspective-taking and visual attention on contagious yawning is discussed.},
  articleno    = {e76266},
  author       = {Madsen, Elainie and Persson, Tomas and Sayehli, Susan and Lenninger, Sara and Sonesson, Göran},
  issn         = {1932-6203},
  keyword      = {Contagious yawning,Contagion,Empathy,Chimpanzees,Development,Emotion},
  language     = {eng},
  number       = {10},
  publisher    = {Public Library of Science},
  series       = {PLoS ONE},
  title        = {Chimpanzees show a developmental increase in susceptibility to contagious yawning: A test of the effect of ontogeny and emotional closeness on yawn contagion},
  url          = {http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0076266},
  volume       = {8},
  year         = {2013},
}