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Contagious Itching Is All In Your Head

Sometimes mimicking another person's behavior doesn't come by choice.

Research has shown that certain actions are the result of social cognition. For instance, when we hear the sound of laughter, our brains automatically tell us to join in — even if we don't get the joke.

Behavioral mimicry often comes from visual cues, like when you look at a person who's cold and then suddenly feel chilly yourself or when you watch a person yawn and involuntarily yawn as well.

SEE MORE: You Might Be Aging, But That Doesn't Mean Your Brain Stops Growing

But this phenomenon doesn't just occur in humans. Scientists have seen contagious yawning in dogs and chimpanzees. And in a recent study, researchers found contagious itching affects mice.

Some scientists point to mirror neurons — brain cells that fire when we watch someone else do something. Others think it's tied to personality traits like empathy or neuroticism. But the short answer is we still don't know exactly why it happens.


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