Do cues of yawning enhance the detection of emotional facial expressions?

Abigail Krouson, Andrew Gallup

Psychology, College of Arts and Science, SUNY Polytechnic Institute, Utica, NY, USA

Yawning can function as a cue for the down regulation of arousal and vigilance. The group vigilance hypothesis suggests that seeing someone yawn enhances the vigilance of the observer in order to compensate for the decreased vigilance in the person observed. Previous research has demonstrated that yawning aids in driving attention to fearful stimuli. We conducted two eye tracking studies to investigate how cues of yawning modify the detection of arousing stimuli with angry and happy faces. No difference in visual search for angry or happy faces as a function of the yawning video condition was found suggesting that enhanced vigilance after exposure to yawning may only apply to animal threats like snakes and spiders. Observed yawning induced vigilance enhancement should be further examined with a larger array of stimuli.