Originally Posted by ut0pia
We humans are too easy to trick...However, I am still not convinced animals' yawning is offset by watching others yawn ..
what strange_wings said about us yawning due to empathy seems right but it doesn't explain why we yawn just at looking at the word yawn..or I yawn just when I think about yawning lol..
I used to make my pet hamsters yawn when I was a kid.
I've managed to make Sho and Tomas yawn before, too, but rarely. They don't yawn for all the reasons humans do.
Humans are a different kind of animal. We're a lot more social than many animals are, which is why even seeing the suggestion of yawning can make some do it. When was the last time something else you read affected you emotionally whether you realized it or not?
As to other reptiles yawning, lizards and turtles will do it after eating to clear their mouths. Snakes will do it to readjusted everything, not just if they're going to shed. And all of them, will make yawn like motions if they're very sick and can't breathe.
(the few times I've been in pets stores and seen this it's made me want to strangle someone, btw)
I've never kept a more social species of lizard, like a green iguana, but supposedly they can be triggered to yawn after people, too. No idea, though, if thats an actual yawn or a misunderstood action as wide mouth opening in lizards is typically a threat.
But if you're truly curious, why not look it up? Also check any libraries as they'll have full books on animal behavior. I'd imagine someone somewhere has studied it and done PET/fMRI while people are being suggested to yawn, following others yawn, and initiating a yawn of their own. Surely that would show what parts of the brain and what pathways are most commonly used.
ETA:Here's a page
that talks about different theories and what parts of the brain and body are affected. Feel free to look up more about echokinesis.
But over all it seems that, yes, animals yawn for specific reasons. Humans and primates have a more social reason for doing so.