No evidence of contagious yawning in the red-footed tortoise Geochelone carbonaria

Wilkinson, Anna and Sebanz, Natalie and Mandl, Isabella and Huber, Ludwig (2011) No evidence of contagious yawning in the red-footed tortoise Geochelone carbonaria. Current Zoology, 57 (4). pp. 477-484. ISSN 1674-5507

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Official URL: http://www.currentzoology.org/temp/%7B5FFBCC02-2AE...

Abstract

Three hypotheses have attempted to explain the phenomenon of contagious yawning. It has been hypothesized that it is a fixed action pattern for which the releasing stimulus is the observation of another yawn, that it is the result of non-conscious mimicry emerging through close links between perception and action or that it is the result of empathy, involving the ability to engage in mental state attribution. This set of experiments sought to distinguish between these hypotheses by examining contagious yawning in a species that is unlikely to show nonconscious mimicry and empathy but does respond to social stimuli: the red-footed tortoise Geochelone carbonaria. A demonstrator tortoise was conditioned to yawn when presented with a red square-shaped stimulus. Observer tortoises were exposed to three conditions: observation of conditioned yawn, non demonstration control, and stimulus only control. We measured the number of yawns for each observer animal in each condition. There was no difference between conditions. Experiment 2 therefore increased the number of conditioned yawns presented. Again, there was no significant difference between conditions. It seemed plausible that the tortoises did not view the conditioned yawn as a real yawn and therefore a final experiment was run using video recorded stimuli. The observer tortoises were presented with three conditions: real yawn, conditioned yawns and empty background. Again there was no significant difference between conditions. We therefore conclude that the red-footed tortoise does not yawn in response to observing a conspecific yawn. This suggests that contagious yawning is not the result of a fixed action pattern but may involve more complex social processes. [ABSTRACT FROM AUTHOR]

Item Type:Article
Keywords:Tortoise, Empathy, Imitation, Hypothesis, Nonconscious mimicry, Reptile, igNobel
Subjects:B Subjects allied to Medicine > B140 Neuroscience
C Biological Sciences > C830 Experimental Psychology
D Veterinary Sciences, Agriculture and related subjects > D322 Animal Physiology
Divisions:College of Science > School of Life Sciences
ID Code:7025
Deposited By: Bev Jones
Deposited On:06 Dec 2012 09:51
Last Modified:10 Jul 2013 15:40

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