Social psychologists often consider race to be a marker of in- or out-group status. When looking at race, implicit bias can take more subtle forms than outward racism. This study asked two research questions to better understand the psychology behind racial issues. The first question was whether the number of contagious yawns (CY) a person experiences depends on the race of the stimuli being viewed. Yawning more in response to in-group members is a phenomenon seen in chimpanzees, but it 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 incited by each video. The second question explored how levels of empathy affected the number of times participants contagiously yawned—a reflex that has been linked to empathy. A chi-square analysis revealed that participants yawned significantly more to racial in-group members than out-group members (χ2 (1) = 7.023; p = .008). The number of times a participant yawned was neither dependent on the gender of the yawners in each stimuli video nor dependent on the combination of race and gender. The correlation between empathy levels and the number of contagious yawns was not significant (r = .064, p = .491). The results suggest that other factors, independent of empathy, could have a greater effect on contagious yawning, and one particularly salient and powerful factor is race.
Jalil, D. (2019). The roles of race and gender in contagious yawning. James Madison Undergraduate Research Journal, 6(1), 28-37. Retrieved from http://commons.lib.jmu.edu/jmurj/vol6/iss1/4