Essay about Why do we yawn?



“It’s a- huuooaauahaaa- bird.” “It’s a- a- aaaaahhhhaaee- plane.” No, it’s “Thee Yawn!” Everyone has fallen victim to “Thee Yawn.” Whether you're in class and you catch it from a teacher or from another student, we have all “caught it.” No one is exempt from the all-consuming and embarrassment-ridden clutches of “Thee Yawn.” Every person likely knows what I'm talking about. The contagious yawn is global and cross-cultural, has no language barrier and no manners -- it is a threat to all. But whenever I open my mouth to yawn, I can’t help but wonder why I'm doing it. I'm not tired. I've had my eight hours. So why am I yawning? After much consideration, I have chalked it up to several possibilities: a viral fungal infection, terrible company, or innate human instinct to succumb to the power of suggestion. 

Perhaps it could be a disease, albeit a brief and harmless one. I say this because most describe the yawning phenomenon as contagious when in actuality it is just a response to seeing another person yawn. The use of the word contagious suggests that the phenomenon isn’t just a common response, but something that is contracted rather than subconsciously triggered. There seems to be no other explanation as to why you would want to open your mouth and risk inhaling some stranger’s nasty mouth particles. To me, this seems like the last thing your instincts would compel you to do.. I am convinced that this impulse must be a virus urging your brain to open your mouth and further its spread. It's just like those ants from National Geographic that get that fungal infection. You know, the one that forces those poor ants to spread its spurs and take its sickness back to their little ant colony. Are we just like the ants? Is the reason that yawns are contagious a result of a viral fungal infection? This is a more extreme theory of mine, but I have another that I feel is more realistic and applicable to the nature of humans.

 Maybe we are all just tired of each other. It makes sense doesn’t it? This is a more reasonable explanation, as it suggests yawning in response to a yawn is psychological, rather than biological. I’ll admit that the notion we all have a fungal infection is a little extreme, especially when you think about the circumstances of the yawnings phenomenon. For me, yawning always seems to occur when I’m extremely bored or uninterested in conversation. More often than I’d like to admit, I’ll even use yawning as a signal to put an end to those dreaded exchanges. If we’re all honest here, who hasn’t? Whether it's a bad date or an awkward situation, the yawn is a universal symbol of being tired or bored. 

The use of this signal saved me from enduring the worst date you could possibly imagine. It all started when, on the night of the date, he asked me to come pick him up. I found it a little odd that an 18-year-old didn’t have a car, but thought nothing of it. Instead it was the immediate droning about his sound cloud rapping and youtube gaming account that brought the date to a screeching halt. The time couldn’t have been later than half past six, but I still found myself yawning on our way to the restaurant. By the grace of some higher power, my friends had decided to follow us without my knowledge. Not because they knew I was suffering, but because they wanted to wreak havoc upon my date. Regardless, once they saw how uninterested and uncomfortable I was they began tallying every single yawn I let out for the first 20 minutes of the date. We hadn’t even gotten our appetizer when the 38th tally was made. At this my friends took action, as it was apparent that the mere presence of this guy had fatigued me.

There is also the possibility that a yawn is the result of more sympathetic or humane intentions. Maybe your brain subconsciously recognizes the threat of the fungal infection and hates the idea of someone you care about suffering alone. So when your cousin tilts her head back slightly to yawn and you find yourself following, it’d seem pretty obvious what was to blame. It must be that sense of familial loyalty and love you share towards her. Yawning out of sympathy isn’t just restricted to family; it's something we do if anyone we care about yawns. Whether it be friends, pets, or family. We do it to prevent any embarrassment those select people may feel.

It could also be a long buried tribal instinct. Humans are social beings that rely on each other to survive, emotionally at least, so it wouldn’t be unreasonable to assume that yawning in response to a yawn is just a herd mentality. It could even stem from our early evolution when people slept in close proximity together. Is the yawning epidemic more surface level than that, though? As babies, humans are very moldable and typically imprint on the humans around them, so is yawning back to a yawn a way for them to connect? Yawning may even be a result of suggestion. Our brain might always be subconsciously seeking a reason to yawn and in turn seizes the opportunity whenever it presents itself. Coincidentally, this always seems to be after someone else yawns. 

It’s hard to concisely determine a cause for the yawning phenomenon, seeing that there are so many potential roots. The possibilities are endless, from viral fungal infections and bad dates to human instinct. After many hours of pondering, the answer is still hazy for me. It seems that one leads to another and eventually that leads to a yawn! Maybe it's because these explanations were compiled for an assignment? I guess I’ll never know.