Where Science and Faith Converge

Dogs Catch Human Yawns

By Hugh Ross - February 2, 2009

The book of Job, especially chapter 39, implies that God created the nephesh creatures (“soulish” animals like birds and mammals) to serve and/or to please human beings. They are termed soulish because God has endowed each of them with a mind, a will, and the capacity to express and experience emotions. These animals are equipped and motivated to emotionally bond with and to nurture, serve, and please other members of their species and human beings. Moreover, these nephesh species were evidently endowed with this capacity before any human even existed, a characteristic that appears problematic for evolutionary or naturalistic scenarios.

Recently, a British team of research psychologists has published a paper announcing the discovery of a new bonding feature between humans and nephesh creatures. Their study demonstrates for the first time that human yawns are contagious to domestic dogs. For their experiment they tested twenty-nine dogs from twenty-four different breeds spanning ages two to fifteen.1 Twenty-one of the dogs yawned when they observed a human do so.

Some dog breeds were better at catching human yawns than others. For example, the Labrador breeds, known to form especially strong bonds with humans, seemed especially adept.

Such behavior indicates that dogs possess the capacity for empathy towards humans. However, the yawning response may reveal more. In human-human interactions contagious yawning is known to modulate levels of arousal. Thus, in the words of the researchers, “yawn contagion [between humans and dogs] may help coordinate dog-human interaction and communication.”

The study provides yet one more piece of scientific evidence that birds and mammals really were pre-designed before humans even existed to form emotional relationships with human beings in such a manner that they could enhance humanity’s well being. These animals serve and please us. More amazing still, each soulish species appears designed to serve and/or please us in a manner distinct from all others.

  1. M. Ramiro et al., “Dogs Catch Human Yawns,” Biology Letters 4 (October 23, 2008): 446-8.

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