A new study shows that you might be a psychopath — or lack empathy — if you don’t yawn. According to a group of psychologists at Leeds University in England, empathy is what causes yawns to be contagious.
In their study, researchers selected 40 psychology students and 40 engineering students. Each student waited individually in a waiting room, along with an undercover assistant who yawned 10 times in front of them. The students were then given an emotional test and shown 40 images of eyes and asked what emotion each one displayed.
The psychology students, whose future profession, per the study, requires them to focus on others and give empathy, yawned contagiously an average of 5.5 times and scored 28 out of 40 on the emotional test. The engineering students, who are more analytical and focus on numbers versus people, yawned an average of 1.5 times and scored 25.5 out of 40. While this doesn’t make engineers psychopaths, the research still backs up that yawning requires empathy.
Neurologists also supported the study through brain scans, finding that contagious yawning is associated with the same parts of the brain that deal with empathy.