Researchers suggest that contagious yawning may be linked to human capacity for empathy, but little evidence apart from studies on primates, exists that links contagious yawning to empathy in other animals. Recently, researchers have documented domestic dogs demonstrating contagious yawning when exposed to human yawns in a scientific setting, but it is unclear whether this phenomenon is rooted in the evolutionary history of mammals, or has evolved in dogs as a result of domestication. In this study, the authors investigated contagious yawning and its potential link to empathy in wolves. They observed and recording yawning in a single pack of 12 wolves at
The results suggest that wolves may experience yawn contagion. The strength of the pack member's social bond with the yawning wolf positively affected the frequency of contagious yawning. Additionally, female wolves showed a faster reaction time than males when observing yawns of close associates, suggesting that females are more responsive to surrounding social stimuli. According to the authors, despite the small sample size these results may provide initial evidence that contagious yawning may relate to the wolves capacity for empathy, and suggests that basic building blocks of empathy might be present in a wider range of species than previously thought.
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