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Social contagion beyond humans: an investigation on contagious yawning, exploring visual, auditory and tactile perception of a non-biological agent (an android) in primates and humans with intact vision and blind.

Joly-Mascheroni, R. M. (2019). Social contagion beyond humans: an investigation on contagious yawning, exploring visual, auditory and tactile perception of a non-biological agent (an android) in primates and humans with intact vision and blind.. (Unpublished Doctoral thesis, City, University of London)

Abstract

The main function of yawning remains disputed. Contagious yawning has been demonstrated within species (e.g. humans; chimpanzees), across species (e.g. humans and dogs) and has been primarily linked to empathy. These communicative signals transferred through body language or facial expressions constitute the basis of social cognition. The current work investigates the nature of contagious yawning in a series of four studies (two with chimpanzees, two with humans - full sighted and blind individuals). The first study used a live presentation to chimpanzees of familiar and unfamiliar humans, portraying a closed mouth, gape and yawn condition. Chimpanzees were more likely to catch yawns from an unknown, rather than familiar human. Yawning triggered soporific behaviour, laying down, gathering leaves, making their beds, only when exposed to visual and auditory yawn stimuli, denoting a form of contagion different from mimicking or imitation behaviour, and here termed Experiential Contagion. The second study explored if the contagious behaviour extended to a non biological unfamiliar object (an android) portraying the same experimental conditions. Chimpanzees caught yawns from the android and displayed the same form of Experiential Contagion. The third study measured (within humans) the implicit contagious response to perception of yawning (observed in videos) using facial electrophysiology and eye tracking. The fourth study (across agents) explored, for the first time, yawn contagion through tactile perception. It found that blind individuals yawned contagiously when touching an inanimate object, the android, that was tactually perceived as yawning. Collectively, findings show contagion can be triggered by visual, auditory and tactile perception, regardless of the biological nature of the perceived stimuli. Robotics and Artificial Intelligence can provide neuroscience with novel opportunities to explore other social interaction behaviours, and warrants future developments of the auditory and tactile biofeedback system, developed during this work, as a tool for blind individuals’ facial recognition and self-portrayal.

Publication Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
Departments: Doctoral Theses
Doctoral Theses > School of Arts and Social Sciences Doctoral Theses
School of Arts & Social Sciences > Psychology
Date Deposited: 04 Nov 2020 10:26
URI: https://openaccess.city.ac.uk/id/eprint/25196
[img] Text - Accepted Version
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