“Viral” yawning?

The LA Times reports on research from the UK on yawning:

A study published in the journal Biology Letters this week found that human yawns are contagious to dogs, a sign that man’s best friend may be capable of a rudimentary form of empathy.

To scientists, dogs have been a bit of a puzzle. Dogs are adept at reading human intentions and excel over other animals in picking up human hand gestures and other behavioral cues. At the same time, though, they appear to lack a sense of self, considered a prerequisite for understanding the feelings of others.

Unlike chimpanzees and possibly elephants and dolphins, dogs do not recognize themselves in a mirror, a classic test of self-awareness.

The latest study demonstrates that dogs are not completely egocentric in their relationships with humans but possess “some low-level attending to what others feel,” said Duke University anthropologist Brian Hare, who was not involved in the research.

“What’s fascinating about this study is that you would not expect to find contagious yawning where you did not have self-awareness,” he said.

Only humans and chimps are known to contagiously yawn.

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