You are going to read an extract from a New Scientist article written by Amy Adams. For each question, choose the answer which you think fits best according to the text.

Fish do it, violinists do it, even salivating lions do it

Think of a yawn. Your jaw tightens, your nostrils flare and you suck in a great lungful of air as your mouth stretches open wide. If it’s a good yawn, you’ll hold that pose until your neck muscles clench, your eardrums ring and your eyes start to water. You might even finish it off with a yelp of pleasure or a satisfied sigh.

Are you yawning yet? You will be. And when you do, so will the guy across the room. And the woman next to him. Because yawning is contagious, and once you start, there’s almost nothing you can do to stop. Of course, the big question is: why do we yawn at all? What can we possibly get out of a six-second stint with our mouths agape-besides an opportunity to offend our conversational partners? Is it a craving for oxygen? Too much carbon dioxide in the blood? Time for bed?

It’s none of the above, says Robert Provine, a psychologist at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, who first became curious about yawning when he realised that nobody had really studied this common—if not always appropriate-behaviour. “Most scientists are looking for the deep and obscure,” Provine says. “I look for the significance of the everyday behaviours that people have neglected. Perhaps it’s my perverse nature.” So he, and some similarly perverse psychologists, set out to determine when, why and how we yawn. Along the way, they found something unexpected: yawning appears to prime our brains for change.

Conventional wisdom has long held that we yawn to invigorate our weary brains with a refreshing burst of oxygen. If this were true, Provine reasoned, then people who are running low on oxygen-or high on carbon dioxide-should yawn more often than normal. To test this theory, Provine first had to figure out how to make people yawn.

Actually, it wasn’t all that difficult. People yawn all the time. But to bump the frequency even higher, Provine took advantage of yawning’s legendary contagiousness and asked a bunch of undergraduates to think or read about yawning. (Why the mere mention of yawning might trigger your jaw to drop isn’t clear-but have you noticed that you’re yawning more than usual as you read this feature?) […]


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