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Monday, August 11, 2008


BEIJING, Aug. 6 (Xinhuanet) -- If your dog yawns when you yawn it's because he or she can't help it, which suggests canines have a rudimentary capacity for empathy, British scientists said Wednesday.

Although yawning is widespread in many animals, contagious yawning ─ a yawn brought on by seeing others yawning ─ has previously only been known to occur in humans and chimpanzees.

It turns out, however, that man's best friend is highly sensitive to catching human yawns, with 72 percent of 29 dogs tested yawning after observing a person doing so.

Writing in the journal Biology Letters, Atsushi Senju and colleagues at London's Birkbeck College said this behavior showed dogs were skilled at reading human social cues and "may relate to their capacity for empathy."

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