Why do we Yawn?

Ok, so here I was sitting in a lecture and the speaker caught me yawning. So, I was thinking of explanations for yawning other than it happening because of sheer boredom. And hence I decided to figure out “Why do we yawn?”. Is it just because of boredom or is it something else?

A simple search got me to How Stuff Works and I got more than what I wanted. Here’s a summary.

There are multiple theories (and conflicting ones) about why we yawn.

  • The Physiological Theory — Our bodies induce yawning to drawn in more oxygen or remove a build-up of carbon dioxide. This theory helps explain why we yawn in groups. Larger groups produce more carbon dioxide, which means our bodies would act to draw in more oxygen and get rid of the excess carbon dioxide. However, if our bodies make us yawn to drawn in needed oxygen, wouldn’t we yawn during exercise? Robert Provine, a psychologist at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, and a leading expert on yawning, has tested this theory. Giving people additional oxygen didn’t decrease yawning and decreasing the amount of carbon dioxide in a subject’s environment also didn’t prevent yawning.
  • The Evolution Theory — Some think that yawning is something that began with our ancestors, who used yawning to show their teeth and intimidate others. An offshoot of this theory is the idea that yawning developed from early man as a signal for us to change activities.
  • The Boredom Theory — In the dictionary, yawning is said to be caused by boredom, fatigue or drowsiness. Although we do tend to yawn when bored or tired, this theory doesn’t explain why Olympic athletes yawn right before they compete in their event. It’s doubtful that they are bored with the world watching them.

And now something interesting

  1. Take a big yawn, cover your mouth out of courtesy, and watch and see how many people yawn. There’s a good chance that you’ll set off a chain reaction of yawns.
  2. Blind people yawn after hearing an audio tape of yawning.
  3. Reading about yawning makes you yawn.

So you could as well put the pointer on someone else, if you are pointed out in the middle of the lecture, for you might simply be a part of the yawining chain.

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So what’s this blog about?

Another attempt? Well yes. Attempting to figure out another sustainable model (there are some other attempts going on parallel-ly). Well, we have a lot of questions in mind. we read up stuff, we do some research to find answers to these questions. This is an attempt to publish that little 15-20 minute research.
June 2009
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