Senior Honors Projects, 2010-2019

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.

Date of Graduation

Spring 2017

Document Type


Degree Name

Bachelor of Science (BS)


Department of Psychology


Melanie Shoup-Knox

Jeffrey Dyche

Krisztina V. Jakobsen


Social Psychologists often consider race to be a marker of in-group or out-group status. When looking at race, implicit bias can take forms that are more subtle than outwards racism. Two research questions were asked in this study to better understand the psychology behind racial issues. The first question was if the number of contagious yawns (CY) a person experiences depends on the race of the stimuli being viewed. Contagiously yawning more to in-group members is a phenomena seen in chimpanzees, but has not been studied in humans in a racial context. Black and white males and females were recruited to view videos of individuals from each race and gender category yawning, while the experimenter documented the number of yawns in response to each video. Contagious yawning has been linked to empathy, and our second question wanted to explore how levels of empathy affected the number of times participants contagiously yawned. A chi square analysis found that participants yawned significantly more to racial in-group members than out-group members, �2 (1)=7.023; p =.008. The number of times a participant yawned was not dependent on the gender of the yawner in the stimuli video, nor was it dependent the combination of race and gender. A correlation between empathy levels and number of contagious yawns was not significant (r = .064, p=.491). Our results suggest that there are other factors, independent of empathy, that could have a bigger effect on contagious yawning, and one particularly salient and powerful factor is race.



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