activities will offer:
an experience in observational psychology
opportunity for a dramatic performance as you deliver an
essay on communication
opportunity to induce yawning in others
of this essay (with the yawn cues)
- This observational investigation is designed to be presented
at home. You will be reading the essay below aloud to your
friends or family to test their response to yawning. However,
the essay needs to be performed without your subjects becoming
aware of its true intent. Therefore, don't tell your family
or friends what you are really testing. Refrain from discussing
the SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN FRONTIERS segment on yawning.
- Before you present this essay, you'll need to practice
it. Like an actor reviewing lines, you'll need to know where
to seamlessly insert your actions. Remember not to read
your yawning cues! The more you practice, the easier it
will become. So practice, practice, practice-but don't let
anyone hear you! HINT: You might borrow an actor's trick
and practice delivering this essay in front of a mirror.
- When you are ready, explain that your homework assignment
requires five minutes of assistance from friends or family.
Gather this group in one room. Explain that you are going
to read an essay from a science book and you need to test
their retention of the major concepts.
- Begin reading. Observe the reactions of others. Specifically
be aware of any yawning.
- As you read, follow the cues. Keep observing your audience.
- When you are done, present the following questions to
to be Read and Performed
can communicate in many different ways. Most often,
our communication is spoken. We reply on our voices
to convey our thoughts to others.
however, our communication is non-verbal. Through
actions and appearance (yawn here), we communicate
people have heard of body language. If you stand
up straight, you are likely to communicate a forceful
and assertive attitude. If you slouch (yawn here),
you may suggest a more patient and resigned approach.
But body language goes beyond posture.
of animals (yawn here). Have you ever watched
a dog "stare-down" another dog? It's a non-verbal
challenge. The dominant animal conveys its (yawn
here) position without speaking.
did you realize that yawning is also a type of
communication. When we see another human yawn
(large yawn here), we get the urge to yawn. Want
to see that again? (large yawn again) Although
scientists don't understand (yawn here) it fully,
they do know that it is a behavior that is contagious.
When you see someone yawn, (yawn again), you want
to yawn. Yawn, yawn, yawn, yawn and yawn (one
final long yawn)."
- At this moment, who feels like yawning? Are you tired?
If not, why do you want to yawn?
- Is watching someone yawn contagious?
- Is hearing about yawning contagious?
- Think about yawning. Do these thoughts make you want to
much of a yawn is contagious? Do you need to see the entire
face or are limited facial clues sufficient to induce a desire
to yawn? Think about it. How would you develop an inquiry
strategy that would test how much of the face needs to be
exposed in order to induce yawns in others? Do you think that
the region above the mouth is necessary for a yawn to be communicated
as a contagious behavior? How many yawns do you need to observe
to attain the peak desire to yawn? Develop an experiment that
would explore any of these aspects of yawning behavior. With
your instructor's approval, use your strategy to investigate
the contagious nature of yawns be transmitted across species?
If you own a dog, cat or hamster, you may have observed the
animal's natural yawn behavior. Do you think you can induce
a yawn in these animals. With your parents' approval, yawn
in front of these animals. How do they respond? Are they interested
in your behavior? Do they yawn as well? Record and compare
your observations with your classmates.
Fantastic site on yawning - includes interactive elements
Theories on yawning and suggestions for student inquiry
activities in this guide were contributed by Michael DiSpezio,
a Massachusetts-based science writer and author of "Critical
Thinking Puzzles" and "Awesome Experiments in Light & Sound"
(Sterling Publishing Co., NY).
Advisors for this guide
Lowen, Science Department, Wayland High School, Wayland, MA
Suzanne Panico, Science Department, Fenway High School, Boston,