Arting for 365 Day 43: Wired for Empathy

Day 43 (6/10/12): Yawn for Empathy

~5.75 x 2 x 3″ Mixed Media

Goal: To create one work of art each day for 365 consecutive days

As I was piddling around, trying to figure out what in the heck I was going to create for day 43’s project, I decided to turn on a Ted talk. I chose a presentation by Frans de Waal titled Moral Behavior in Animals. The talk seemed pretty interesting and chimps, which always promise to be adorable, were going to have a role in it.

De Waal had lots of good info, but what stuck with me most was a very minor piece about yawn contagion. Turns out that those contagious yawns we experience are partly due to people being empathetic. De Waal presented a study proving that chimps are not immune to contagious yawns either, helping to prove that they too experience empathy. I was amazed by the whole idea.

I began looking for images of yawning people and came across a picture of a yawning baby. It turns out, that while babies yawn, they don’t experience contagious yawning. This fact got me thinking about the relationship between human and chimp. I wanted to explore the idea of adult chimps being more human than humans at certain stages of life- at least in terms of morality.

This piece available for purchase at or by emailing me at

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