It’s just over an hour into a date with a total douche and you have to clench your jaws to avoid the signal of boredom escaping you mouth.

Yawning is about as part of our day-to-day lives as eating.

But what makes it intriguing is that we instinctively stretch our mouths the second we see someone else do it (sometimes, all it takes is a mention of the word or a picture!).

Have you ever wondered why? Research suggests these could be the reasons:

via GIPHY

You’re not a psychopath

According to a small study conducted by researchers at the University of Connecticut, yawning is a sign of empathy.

Researchers examined a group of children and found that they didn’t develop contagious yawning until the age of four. It’s believed empathic skills are developed around this age.

They also discovered that young people with autism – a condition in which sufferers struggle to form relationships – were less likely to yawn than those without the disorder.

However, more extensive research needs to be done in order to back up this theory.

Your brain is wired to do so The University of Essex in the UK conducted a study and found that contagious yawning possibly had a link to the human mirror neuron system.

These neurons cause the observer to emulate what the other is doing. So when we see someone stretch their mouth in front of us, our neurons are stimulated, causing us to copy what we see.

via GIPHY

It’s down to your age

According to Time, the younger you are, the more likely you are to catch a case of the yawns.

A study was done on 328 people, who were shown a three-minute video of people yawning.

Results showed that 82% of those under the age of 25 yawned contagiously, while only 41% of participants older than 50 followed the example of what they saw on screen.

Although more research is needed, authors of the study speculate people are less likely to be contagious yawners as they become older because they pay less attention to the behaviour of those around them.

Sources: Time,  Metro.co.ukSciencedirect.comBodylanguageproject.com