Is Yawning Contagious?

Is Yawning Contagious?

Revealing the Logic of Our Brain behind Irrational Yawning Behavior
You must have experienced or listened by someone that yawning is contagious. You might be exposed to various comments regarding this phenomenon. You might have observed that if someone else is yawning you also tend to yawn. Is the sound of a yawn contagious? Have you ever experienced anyone watching a video or picture of a yawning person tend to yawn instantly? If someone yawns while observing others yawn must be sleepy? Is he getting bored? Because we are social beings so is the yawning transferred socially? These and many other questions regarding the phenomenon of yawn were existing in everyone’s mind. Do you know this debate is now under research and scientific observation? Yes! this is true. Just like everyone, this topic developed curiosity in scientists who observed this phenomenon under scientifically controlled settings.

One of the research conducted during 2013 by researchers in Switzerland who studied this matter. In Zurich University, they gathered 11 volunteers and showed them 3 different kinds of videos i.e. one containing laughing incidents, another containing neutral situations, and a video of yawning person. While the participants were watching videos, their fMRI was recorded. It was found that more than half of the participants who watched other persons yawning in the video were more likely to yawn as they watched the video. The brain area called inferior frontal gyrus was highlighted while they yawned. Whereas, those who were watching videos of laughing or neutral acts showed no activity in this area of the brain. This interesting study revealed brain area to be responsible for making a mirror image in brain cells (through mirror neurons) which tend to be imitated by the person (i.e. the person yawns in response to a yawn).
You can test this with a simple experiment. Visualize an image of a person yawning. Just maintain your focus on the image. Observe what happens. You will be surprised even while reading this article unconsciously some people tend to yawn. You may also tend to yawn unintentionally while visualizing, hearing, or reading about yawn.

There is more to study about the yawning phenomenon. Animal studies have been conducted to gain more insights about the facets of yawning. An article published in Frontiers of Neurology and Neuroscience revealed more aspects of contagious yawning with respect to social, evolutionary and neuroscience links of human behaviors. In an Italian Zoo, neuroscientists observed twenty-one baboons with respect to behaviors such as yawning, sleeping, nurturing, priming, and walking. They found that not merely observing other baboons led them to yawn, but their yawning behavior was more related to the time they spend in nurturing and grooming of each other. Thus, it is more about the connection, affection, and closeness in the relationship which determines their contagious yawning behavior.

The interesting findings regarding the phenomenon of contagious yawning are opening doors for many other facts. If the mirror neurons play a role in contagious yawning and this behavior is further related to social familiarity and the degree of closeness among creatures, there might be indications that mirror neurons can also show links with imitation or understanding of other person’s experiences. Empathy is the state where a person can put himself in the other’s shoes. Can there be a link between mirror neurons and the development of empathy? We await further discoveries to unleash the topic.

Written By:

Dr. Mehwish Mursaleen

Ph.D. Clinical Psychology

Source: Psychology Today

From The Desk of a Psychologist

From The Desk of a Psychologist

The best way to scare people in our country is by telling them you are a psychologist. They fear that psychologists know everything from what they are thinking to actually what they had for dinner last night…
Getting admission in the faculty of Arts is enough to tell people that you don’t respect yourself. Further, making it to a field of psychology makes people empathize as if you chose it over suicide.
Getting admission in the faculty of Arts is enough to tell people that you don’t respect yourself. Further, making it to a field of psychology makes people empathize as if you chose it over suicide.
Have you ever thought what a student of psychology goes through? Let me tell you…
The initial classes are enough to declare that your ability to give the best advice to people doesn’t count. Teachers spend classes differentiating empathy from sympathy. The best thing about psychology is it deals with human behavior. So, when the exams arrive you can easily observe symptoms of panic attacks. You are worried about the pimples that appeared recently before exams? Well, let me clarify these are not pimples you better Google the term psoriasis.
Personality theories make all the more sense by applying them to your friends. You become a psychologist when one friend gives an evil plan and you turn it down telling them -sorry I am a super ego! Adler’s theory gives all the more reason for the pampered child to regress, first born child to dominate and the middle born children to compete. Comes Jung and every sane person studying psychology feels relieved and daydream about peak experiences. Your friend may covertly try to reinforce your positive behaviors, making learning theory meaningful. You learn over time, to tell people that they need to redefine their relationship as Horney had suggested.
You are a psychologist when studying, by Stander’s effect; you can easily imagine your own countrymen. Similarly, Mailgram’s experiment findings can be easily observed by giving authority to people for a moment. You learn that the reason our countrymen are divided is that we consider community, religion, ethnicity as our social group instead of a unified national identity that we have. You are a psychologist when you learn that nonverbal language has a greater impact on the audience than your words.
You are a psychologist when you learn that telling people that they are suffering from a mental illness is not a success. Rather, helping that person to overcome adversity with kindness is. When you learn to facilitate people to make the best decision for themselves. When you learn that your life is better than millions of people out there struggling to even get their basic physiological needs met. When you learn that psychiatrists, social workers, and other mental health professionals are an important part to help this society. When you learn to question each of your behaviors as behaviors do not occur without a reason.
When you learn this much you get an insight. However, to reach the last stage of Prochaska’s behavior of change, you need to keep up with the behavior. You need to stay motivated. Motivation, you know works better when you know why you do what you do. When you learn the “why” of your job you will eventually be able to self-actualize. That is using your potentials to the fullest, according to humanistic approach!

Written By:

Syeda Aelia Zaidi
M.Phil. Clinical Psychology

Editor:

Mehwish Mursaleen
Ph.D. Clinical Psychology

Common Myths People Have Regarding Psychological Problems and their Treatment

Common Myths People Have Regarding Psychological Problems and their Treatment

Although there is a growing awareness regarding mental health services, still there are myths and misconceptions regarding mental health problems as well as regarding their treatment. Some of the common myths are mentioned here.
Myth # 1: People doing unusual things surely have some magical influences:
Even though people are now aware that magical and supernatural influences have little evidence and such things are caused by the psychological disturbance in a person. Some people still believe in such things. This is the reason, the fake faith healers get the heavy amount of money or expensive stuff from those suffering from unusual experiences. Whereas, the truth of the matter is such people are undergoing some sort of psychological disturbance. We come across a number of such patients who report hearing unusual voices, seeing unusual images, having someone or something touching them while the people around them can’t see, hear or feel what they are experiencing. Such experiences are characterized by a set of illnesses known as psychotic disorders. Other kinds of patients report a history of fits, falling off and fainting, talking in someone else’s voice, having some of their body parts paralyzed, pain or other symptoms mimicking any medical condition but the medical test reports deny any disease. Such kind of symptoms is categorized in Conversion disorder or Somatic symptoms disorder. People experiencing such kind of conditions must consult clinicians for the treatment of their illness rather than wasting time and money on fake healers.
Myth # 2: Only people with serious illnesses seek psychological treatments:
This is another myth people hold regarding psychological services. This myth is more related to the stigma of being “Psycho” which is very common even among very educated people. In reality, the aware people consult a psychologist for even minor issues such as, parents who observe aggression, disobedience or violence in their kids can take guidance on how to handle such children. Students facing difficulty regarding their career choices can consult a psychologist for career counseling. Adolescents facing issues in socialization or when they think their parents don’t understand their needs due to the generation gap may consult a psychologist for how to communicate and handle their issues. Similarly, couples having difficulties in a relationship because their minds don’t match may seek to counsel. These and many other daily life issues can be handled with the help of a psychologist so you shouldn’t keep tunnel vision regarding mental illnesses after reading this article.

Myth # 3: Only weak people find treatment for their problems:
People think that if they consult a mental health professional, it is a sign of their weakness. The fact is, it shows a sense of responsibility of a person when he/she seeks a professional help to achieve a better mental health and peace of mind.
Myth # 4: A young counselor/therapist cannot understand your problems until he/she has experienced it:
Some very educated and aware people hold this belief and we come across a thousand of such questions during our professional practice. Literally, this belief is similar if you think that a doctor cannot treat your disease until he/she has the similar disease. Does it make sense? To add your knowledge it is stated that for God sake! Take your counselor or psychologist as your doctor. Do ask for your Psychologist’s qualification and experience if you want to avail best services. A clinical psychologist with sound academic qualification and experience is trained to treat every kind of problems whether it relates to your marital life, old age crisis, adolescent issues, sex life, or anything which is related to a human life.

People who hold such kind of misconceptions often remain fearful while seeking professional help. To such people, we offer a knowledge base and evidence based practices. Counseling, psychotherapy, consultation or other mental health practices are proved to provide symptom relief, better quality of life and peace of mind. It enhances one’s potentials towards positive growth. A trained mental health professional always takes step towards your well being.

Written By:
Mehwish Mursaleen (Ph.D. Clinical Psychology)
Clinical/Organizational Psychologist (Overtop Consultants),
Online Psychotherapist (Consult-a-psychologist.com & iCliniq.com)