Can I stop this type of coughing?
May 19, 2007 3:10 PM   Subscribe

Can you stop being affected by the contagiousness of yawns and coughs? Especially coughs?

I don't really care about the yawning thing, but that's the kind of contagiousness I mean. (And apparently "sympathetic" means something else here.)

But whenever someone in my hearing range coughs or clears their throat, I feel like doing the same. It gets really annoying when I'm around someone who's doing it every thirty seconds. I can suppress the impulse, but I still feel it.
posted by Many bubbles to Science & Nature (3 answers total)
I'm not a neuro-psychologist but as I understand it this type of behaviour is caused by mirror neurons.

I'm pretty sure that without these cells you'd lose a lot of what it means to be human.

PBS also has what looks like a good bit on this at PBS Science Now
posted by tiamat at 6:51 PM on May 19, 2007

The coughing thing reminds me of my old job. My office was very close to the kitchen, and I could hear whomever was in there talking. The kitchen could be empty for an hour and I wouldn't think anything of it, but as soon as someone went into there I would think of three different things I needed to do in the kitchen. Or the bathroom at home that I never need to use until my boyfriend goes in and closes the door.
posted by rhapsodie at 7:43 PM on May 19, 2007

Oh. Well, that kind of sucks.

Headphones for me, I guess.
posted by Many bubbles at 10:17 PM on May 19, 2007

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