Animal Cognition

, Volume 15, Issue 4, pp 721–724 | Cite as

Auditory contagious yawning in domestic dogs (Canis familiaris): first evidence for social modulation

Short Communication

Abstract

Dogs’ capacity to ‘catch’ human yawns has recently attracted the attention of researchers in the field of animal cognition. Following recent studies suggesting that contagion yawning in humans, and some other primates, is empathy-related, some authors have considered the possibility that the same mechanism may underlie contagious yawning in dogs. To date, however, no positive evidence has been found, and more parsimonious hypotheses have been put forward. The present study explored the ‘contagion-only’ hypothesis by testing whether the mere sound of a human yawn can be sufficient to elicit yawning in dogs, in a way that is unaffected by social–emotional factors. Unexpectedly, results showed an interesting interplay between contagion and social effects. Not only were dogs found to catch human yawns, but they were also found to yawn more at familiar than unfamiliar yawns. Although not allowing for conclusive inferences about the mechanisms underlying contagious yawning in dogs, this study provides first data that renders plausible empathy-based, emotionally connected, contagious yawning in these animals.

Keywords

Canis domesticus Contagion Empathy Social modulation Yawning 

Supplementary material

10071_2012_473_MOESM1_ESM.docx (18 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 17 kb)

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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Karine Silva
    • 1
    • 2
  • Joana Bessa
    • 1
    • 2
  • Liliana de Sousa
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.Departamento de Ciências do Comportamento, Instituto de Ciências Biomédicas Abel SalazarUniversidade do PortoPortoPortugal
  2. 2.ÂnimasPortoPortugal

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