Brian Rundle wasn’t too surprised when his latest publishing started to gain international attention. “Contagious yawning is something that everyone experiences,” Rundle explains, but there is more to his study than just those familiar involuntary movements. His research was focused on who is catching these yawns, or rather, who is not.

It has been theorized that the contagiousness of yawns is due to empathy. We understand that the yawner is tired and, in an attempt to console that person, we yawn, as well. It makes sense. It is also recognized that psychopaths suffer from a disorder that causes them not to feel empathy, hence their often violent social behavior. Again, makes sense. If these were indeed true, Rundle hypothesized, then it should also be true that psychopaths would not be victim to the same contagious yawning.

Rundle and his team, which included his mentor Dr. Matthew Stanford, evaluated a sample of Baylor students in the aggression laboratory to find the answer. First, they tested the group to see if they displayed psychopathic traits. Then, they put the same group in an environment to study if there was a difference in yawn catching between those who displayed psychopathic traits and those who did not. The results were published and began to rapidly spread across the Internet with the speed of a Kardashian scandal (poor Rob). People were intrigued at this new information that could help them determine if someone could be a psychopath and the author has been enjoying his “short limelight.”

Rundle, a San Antonio native, came to Baylor as a psychology undergrad in 2006 and returned a few years ago as a doctoral candidate in the behavioral neuroscience program. After almost a decade in Waco, he is excited to see that the city is continuing to improve.  The downtown area has become safer and has seen an uprising in diversity among the activities and restaurants it offers. Rundle agrees that it has become “significantly better” because of the amount of money being pumped into cleaning up the area and he has been a part of that revitalization. In his free time, he works at a vegetable stand at the popular Waco Farmer’s Market and enjoys experiencing and working in the city’s “unsaturated” artisan scene.

When asked if he could give one piece of advice to prospective BU graduate students, Rundle responded, “Baylor is great. They are real supportive of people. It’s a very warm culture here. People are very interested in getting to know you. And, in a positive way, they are very Texan.” He continued, “The academics are great, and they are improving. You won’t regret having a degree from Baylor.”

But you may regret the next time you yawn, and your date across the table doesn’t.

By Matthew Doyen