Scientists from the University of Pisa have discovered that women are twice as likely to catch a yawn compared to their male counterparts.

The study, led by the University’s Dr Elisabetta Palagi, saw the observation of 1,461 yawning spells in everyday situations over a five-year period. None of the study’s participants were aware they were being watched, and from the results, researchers were able to conclude that women were approximately twice as likely to ‘catch’ a yawn then men.

The study also found that rates of yawn ‘contagion’ were considerably lower between acquaintances than between friends and relations.

“The completely new finding of this study is that under natural conditions women from our population sample contagiously yawned at significantly higher rates than men,” Dr Palagi wrote in the Royal Society Open Science journal.

“This result further supports the empathic ground of yawn contagion, in the light of the existing psychological, clinical and neurobiological evidence in favour of higher empathic abilities of women compared with men.”

However, previous studies have demonstrated that the yawn contagion is not universally effective, since 40-60 percent of individuals are never ‘infected’ by the yawn under laboratory conditions.

Nevertheless, studies have found that yawns are also contagious among certain groups of animals, including monkeys and apes. A yawn from one individual can trigger an ‘epidemic’ that affects the whole group, and research has found that female apes are much more susceptible to the yawn than the males of their species.

Additional reporting by The Telegraph.

Image via Shutterstock.

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