Contagious yawning and psychopathy

Brian K. Rundle, Vanessa R. Vaughn, Matthew S. Stanford

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

23 Scopus citations


Psychopathy is characterized by a general antisocial lifestyle with behaviors including being selfish, manipulative, impulsive, fearless, callous, possibly domineering, and particularly lacking in empathy. Contagious yawning in our species has been strongly linked to empathy. We exposed 135 students, male and female, who completed the Psychopathic Personality Inventory-Revised (PPI-R), to a yawning paradigm intended to induce a reactionary yawn. Further, we exposed males to an emotion-related startle paradigm meant to assess peripheral amygdalar reactivity. We found that scores on the PPI-R subscale Coldheartedness significantly predicted a reduced chance of yawning. Further, we found that emotion-related startle amplitudes were predictive of frequency of contagious yawning. These data suggest that psychopathic traits may be related to the empathic nature of contagious yawning in our species.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)33-37
Number of pages5
JournalPersonality and Individual Differences
StatePublished - Nov 1 2015


  • Evolution
  • Psychopathy
  • Startle
  • Yawn

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychology(all)


Dive into the research topics of 'Contagious yawning and psychopathy'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this