Robert Provine, Psychology, in BBC Future

As Psychology Professor Robert Provine puts it, “yawning may have the dubious distinction of being the least understood, common human behavior.” A recent in depth story published in BBC Future attempts to answer the baffling question of why we yawn, and Provine, one of the leading experts in the field and author of Curious Behavior: Yawning, Laughing, Hiccupping, and Beyond, is quoted extensively in the story.

Robert Provine

In the article, Provine discusses how contagious yawning is: “Around 50% of people who observe a yawn will yawn in response,” Provine said. “It is so contagious that anything associated with it will trigger one…seeing or hearing another person, or even reading about yawning.” He also discussed how audiences frequently yawn as he is giving presentations: “It makes a very effective lecture,” he said. “You talk and then the audience starts yawning. And then you can ask people to experiment on their yawns – like closing the lips, or inhaling through clenched teeth, or trying to yawn with the nose pinched closed.”

To read the full article in BBC Future titled, “One of science’s most baffling questions? Why we yawn,” click here.