Best Piece Of Trivia You Learned This Week: Psychopath Edition True or false — psychopaths are insusceptible to contagious yawning. Ophira Eisenberg and Jonathan Coulton get down to the scary truth.

Best Piece Of Trivia You Learned This Week: Psychopath Edition

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Every week on Facebook and Twitter, we ask people to send us an interesting piece of trivia that they heard or read somewhere. It doesn't have to be true. It could be false. They'll just let us figure it out. So - all right, Jonathan?


EISENBERG: I'm going to do something for a second, OK?

COULTON: All right.



EISENBERG: (Yawning).

COULTON: Yeah? You yawned.

EISENBERG: So J. Michael Spencer (ph) from Medford, Mass. sent us this piece of trivia - psychopaths aren't susceptible to contagious yawning.


COULTON: I feel like - I feel like you just tricked me.


COULTON: Do they do these tests in front of live audiences?

EISENBERG: (Laughter). Live - mostly during public radio show tapings.

COULTON: (Laughter). I confess I had a little temptation to yawn.


COULTON: Yeah, but I felt like it was going be rude to yawn in front of all these people.

EISENBERG: That is the kind of justification a psychopath would give.

COULTON: Is it? Is it?

EISENBERG: But do you think that's true or false, that little bit?

COULTON: It sounds like it might be true. I haven't known a lot of psychopaths, as far as I'm aware.

EISENBERG: Do you know how to define a psychopath?

COULTON: Yeah - somebody who never yawns, right?


EISENBERG: They say generally, psychopaths are people who lack - exhibit a lack of emotion, particularly shame or guilt, but they are selfish and overconfident. This sounds like everyone I know, by the way.

COULTON: Yeah, I know, I was going to say wait a minute - a little close to home.


EISENBERG: They have poor impulse control and they have a lack of empathy.


EISENBERG: That's the main one, I feel

COULTON: They have to figure out how humans behave and then they behave that way...


COULTON: ...So nobody knows that they're psychopaths.

EISENBERG: That's right. So yeah, you still haven't answered though. True or false? Psychopaths...

COULTON: I'm going to say - I'm going to say that that is - I'm going to say that that is true.

EISENBERG: OK. There's no experiment that has been done to verify this, but there seems to be a connection between contagious yawning and feeling empathy towards people. Isn't that weird? A University of Leeds experiment put test subjects in a room with a researcher who yawned 10 times in 10 minutes, and the subject that yawned the most scored higher on empathy tests.

COULTON: Well, there you go.

EISENBERG: I would love to see an empathy test. It was like, how often do you feel sorry...

COULTON: (Laughter).

EISENBERG: Yeah, it is true. And most children under the age of 4 also do not yawn contagiously, so that is proof that toddlers are psychopaths.


COULTON: That I believe absolutely.

EISENBERG: So thank you to J. Michael Spencer for sending us that fact.


EISENBERG: Coming up, they've written about presidents, palindromes and a particle man. Now They Might Be Giants will lead us in a game that is so wrong, it's right. I'm Ophira Eisenberg and this is NPR's ASK ME ANOTHER.


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