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Psychopathy Linked to Contagious Yawning

Update Date: Sep 09, 2015 07:55 PM EDT

Not sure if your date is a psychopath? Fake a yawn, and if he yawns back then you're in the clear. However, he may be a psychopath if he doesn't, according to a new study.

New research reveals that people with psychopathic traits like being selfish, manipulative, impulsive, domineering and lacking in empathy are significantly less likely to catch "contagious yawning".

Researcher from Baylor University explain that "contagious yawning" is associated with empathy and bonding and defined as yawning when other people yawn.This phenomenon can be seen in people, chimpanzees and dogs.

The latest study involved 135 college students. The findings reveal that people who scored lower on empathy in psychological evaluations were also significantly less likely to "catch" a yawn.

"It's not an 'on/off' of whether you're a psychopath. It's a spectrum," lead researcher Brian Rundle, a doctoral student in psychology and neuroscience at Baylor University, said in a news release.

"The take-home lesson is not that if you yawn and someone else doesn't, the other person is a psychopath," Rundle said. "A lot of people didn't yawn, and we know that we're not very likely to yawn in response to a stranger we don't have empathetic connections with," he explained.

"But what we found tells us there is a neurological connection-some overlap-between psychopathy and contagious yawning. This is a good starting point to ask more questions," Rundle concluded.

The findings are published in the journal Personality and Individual Differences.

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