Category: Journeys Hits: 2567
New research is opening eyes to the psychology of tears
Why does one person get choked up over a Hallmark commercial, while another sheds tears only for the death of a loved one? Does the exhortation "Have a good cry" carry physiological or psychological merit? And how do crying behaviors differ among cultures and between the sexes?
New research by psychologists is beginning to answer these questions, helping us better understand what human tears mean from social, psychological and neuroscientific perspectives.
"I think the study of crying, more than is the case for any other emotional expression, may help us to obtain a better insight into human nature," says leading tear researcher Ad Vingerhoets, PhD, a psychology professor at Tilburg University in the Netherlands.
Vingerhoets and others are tracking people's crying episodes to determine the role culture plays in why we cry, measuring the chemical makeup of tears and examining the reactions they trigger in others. They're also learning how crying helps us connect with others by studying those who can't do it.
Gender, culture and tears
Several factors play a role in an individual's propensity to cry. Gender differences in crying, for example, have been explored for decades and across the world, and all of the studies reached the same conclusion: Women cry more than men.
In the 1980s, biochemist William H. Frey, PhD, found that women cry an average of 5.3 times a month, while men cry an average of 1.3 times per month, with crying defined as anything from moist eyes to full-on sobbing. Those averages still appear to be about the same, suggests newer research, including work by Lauren Bylsma, PhD, of the University of Pittsburgh (Journal of Research in Personality, 2011).
Biologically, there may be a reason women cry more than men: Testosterone may inhibit crying, while the hormone prolactin (seen in higher levels in women) may promote it. But a desire to cry is not all nature. A study of people in 35 countries found that the difference between how often men and women cry may be more pronounced in countries that allow greater freedom of expression and social resources, such as Chile, Sweden and the United States. Ghana, Nigeria and Nepal, on the other hand, reported only slightly higher tear rates for women (Cross-Cultural Research, 2011). Lead study author Dianne Van Hemert, PhD, a senior researcher at the Netherlands Organization for Applied Scientific Research, says that people in wealthier countries may cry more because they live in a culture that permits it, while people in poorer countries — who presumably might have more to cry about — don't do so because of cultural norms that frown on emotional expression.
Crying may also reflect attachment styles, research suggests. In her book "Seeing Through Tears: Crying and Attachment" (Routledge, 2005), psychotherapist Judith Kay Nelson, PhD, summarizes past research and concludes that securely attached people are more comfortable expressing emotions and cry in ways that are considered normal and healthy, while those with insecure attachment may cry inappropriately — with easily activated, difficult-to-soothe tears. More recently, researchers from Tilburg University have found that people with "dismissive" attachment styles — or those who tend to avoid close relationships with others — were less likely to cry and tried harder to inhibit their tears than people with other attachment styles (Social Behavior and Personality, 2012). The study also found that people with "preoccupied" styles — or those who might be clingy and overly dependent on others — cried more often than securely attached people. Women of all attachment styles cried more than men.
Is crying good for you?
For infants, tears serve as an important communication tool, allowing them to show their need for support. That tool may also serve us well in adulthood, several recent studies have found.
One study showed participants images of faces with tears and faces with tears digitally removed, as well as tear-free control images. Subjects judged the faces with tears as appearing sadder. However, participants rated those with tears removed more ambiguously — not simply less sad, but reflecting a range of uncertain emotions, such as concern or contemplation (Evolutionary Psychology, 2009).
"Tears add valence and nuance to the perception of faces," says the study's lead author, Robert R. Provine, PhD, a professor of psychology and neuroscience at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. Tears become a sort of social lubricant, he says, helping to ensure the smooth functioning of a community by helping people communicate. Bearing this out, researchers at Tilburg University have demonstrated that at even very short exposure times, respondents report being more willing to provide support to people with visible tears than to those without tears (Evolutionary Psychology, 2013).
Tears may also serve a therapeutic role, though researchers say the supposedly cathartic role of "a good cry" has been overstated. Thirty years ago, biochemist Frey found that emotional tears carried more protein than non-emotional tears (say, from chopping an onion). The implication was that when you cry for emotional reasons, you are involved in a healing process. However, Vingerhoets says he has tried twice without success to replicate this experiment.
Bylsma conducted a daily diary study of female students that also calls Frey's theory into question. She found that only about 30 percent of students said their moods had improved after crying, with 60 percent reporting no change and about 9 percent saying their moods worsened. These women were reporting on their moods the same day as the crying happened, unlike other studies, which asked people to reflect back on their crying. "Our memories may become distorted over time," says Bylsma.
Bylsma's research offers a new insight into tears: Why you cry and who sees you do it appear to make a difference in whether crying helps or hurts your emotional state (Journal of Research in Personality, 2011). In the study, she and colleagues found that crying was more likely to make people feel better when they had emotional support (such as a close friend nearby), if they were crying due to a positive event, or if their crying led to a resolution or new understanding of the situation that led them to cry in the first place. Criers felt worse if they felt embarrassed or ashamed of crying, if they were with unsupportive people or if they cried because they saw suffering. Overall, participants were more likely to feel better if they cried alone or around one other person, but felt worse or didn't experience a mood change if they were with two or more people.
Another line of crying research suggests that female tears can be a sexual turnoff for men. In a series of double-blind experiments by researchers at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel, men smelled emotional tears captured from women who had watched sad movies. At varying other times, the men also sniffed a saline solution that had been dribbled on the women's cheeks. Using functional magnetic resonance imaging and other measures, the researchers compared the men's sexual arousal as they viewed pictures of attractive women and erotic movies after they had sniffed the real tears with their arousal after they had sniffed the saline. The researchers found that the men were less aroused when they had sniffed the real tears compared with the saline solution (Science, 2011). This finding was replicated in a South Korean study that measured the testosterone levels of men exposed to emotional tears and saline (Public Library of Science, 2012).
The inability to cry
Psychologists have also gleaned new insights into people who can't produce tears at all — either emotional or the basal tears that keep eyes lubricated. "Ophthalmologists have typically treated ‘dry eye' as a medical issue, completely missing the fact that emotional communication is impaired when you lack tears," says Provine. "They have not attended to important psychological and social consequences."
Patients with Sjogren's syndrome, for example, have great difficulty producing tears. Nienke van Leeuwen, a PhD candidate in health psychology at Utrecht University in the Netherlands, has found that 22 percent of patients with the syndrome had "significantly more difficulty" identifying their own feelings than control participants did (Clinical and Experimental Rheumatology, 2012).
Vingerhoets, author of the 2013 book "Why Only Humans Weep: Unravelling the Mysteries of Tears," is exploring what happens to people who can't cry, with neurologist Michael Trimble, MD, at the Institute of Behavioral Neurology at University College, London. The project came about after a BBC interview with Trimble resulted in 900 people emailing to say they couldn't cry and would like to volunteer to be studied.
It's yet another angle of research that Vingerhoets would like to see further examined to help better understand why we cry. "I really have the feeling there are so many things that can be explored and are waiting to be explored," he says.
Lorna Collier is a writer in Chicago.
ॐ Namasté - Blessings!
© 2008-2018 crystalwind.ca. All rights reserved.
Archive: Andels Journeys
- 2018 (15)
- October (1)
- September (2)
- August (1)
- July (1)
- June (1)
- May (3)
- April (1)
- March (1)
- February (1)
- January (3)
- 2017 (41)
- December (1)
- November (5)
- October (2)
- September (3)
- August (5)
- July (3)
- June (8)
- • The Trap of Righteousness
- • The Commercialization of Spirituality - A Multi-Billion Dollar Corporate Takeover!
- • Loneliness
- • The Masks Are Coming Off - Unveiling False Teachers
- • The Dynamics Of Fear In Fear Inducing Times
- • 10 “Spiritual” Things People Do That Are Total Bullshit
- • Karma Teaches Jerks A Valuable Lesson In Life
- • Is The New Spirituality Just A Trend?
- May (4)
- April (2)
- March (2)
- February (3)
- January (3)
- 2016 (29)
- December (5)
- November (3)
- October (3)
- August (1)
- June (1)
- May (1)
- April (3)
- March (3)
- February (3)
- January (6)
- • My Pleasure
- • Vancouver Man With Stomach Cancer Is Selling Unconditional Love On Craigslist For $0
- • Carefree People Don’t Have Attachments - Here Are 25 Reasons Why
- • Are Family Members Toxic? 10 Things to Remember
- • The World As We Know It Has Changed And There Is No Going Back To What We Were - 6 Predictions
- • How To Get More Energy: 8 New Secrets Backed By Research
- 2015 (50)
- December (4)
- November (6)
- • Neutrality — The Gateway To Transcend The Matrix
- • Soul and Personality
- • Dalai Lama on Paris & Syria – A Message for Peace
- • Know Yourself. Heal. Self-Liberate. Experiment. Build Community.
- • Groundbreaking Discovery: Man Solves Tesla’s Secret To Amplifying Power By Nearly 5000%
- • Johnny Depp Intends To Buy Site Of Wounded Knee Massacre And Gift It Back To The Native American People
- October (10)
- • Waking Up The Goddess: Where Men Meet Women
- • Why we cry
- • You’re Not Wrong
- • Canada’s New PM Issues Challenge to US – “We’re Ending Wars and Legalizing Pot”
- • Meet the USA's First School District to Serve 100% Organic Meals
- • Going Through Shadows: The Vortex Of Transformation.
- • The Rise of Lowsumerism
- • There is something extraordinary happening in the world
- • Three Ways Canadian Thanksgiving Differs From American Thanksgiving
- • Leonardo DiCaprio - Bring Down Big Oil Corporations
- September (3)
- August (2)
- July (2)
- June (6)
- May (5)
- April (2)
- March (1)
- February (5)
- January (4)
- 2014 (56)
- December (2)
- November (4)
- October (4)
- September (5)
- • Water on Earth predates Sun, meaning our life originated elsewhere – study
- • Buffalo Treaty: Native tribes sign bison revival plan in US and Canada
- • US to pay largest Native American nation $554 million in landmark settlement
- • Being Vegan and Raw Vegan Lifestyle
- • New Experiment Will Answer Some Mind-Bending Questions On Whether We Live In a Hologram
- August (3)
- July (3)
- June (4)
- May (2)
- April (3)
- March (7)
- • Spring Into the Adventure! How the Symbolism of Frogs Can Support Us Through Change
- • The Gateways Are As Open As You Are
- • Shifting Seasons And Time…..
- • Marching Forward
- • Stanford Physicist: Vast, Powerful Realm Between Particles Influenced by Human Consciousness
- • We Are Living In The Most Important Time In The History Of The Universe - Dolores Cannon Discusses Our Current Paradigm
- • Creating A Path Where There Is None
- February (9)
- • February Update
- • Finding Direction When You Feel Lost
- • How Our Narratives Inform Our Hopes for Change
- • Electromagnetic and Radio Frequency Mitigation
- • The Alchemy of Responsible Reflection
- • How You Attract Information In A Vibrational Universe
- • 'You shall not pass!' Native American groups vow to block Keystone XL pipeline
- • Architecture of the Light
- • Meeting Our Past Selves Outside Of Time
- January (10)
- • Journey to the Enchanted Forest – Your New Moon & New Year Power Animal Awaits
- • Year of the Horse is Upon Us – Ready, Set, Go!
- • The 118 Days of Creation
- • How Much Are You Filtering Your Truth? – Image Alterations Aren't Just For Big Media Anymore
- • Eight Signs You May Be Experiencing a Spiritual Awakening
- • 13 Signs You’re a Witch
- • How To Tell If You Had A Past Life In Atlantis
- • How Do I Know If It’s My Soul or My Ego Talking?
- • The Baby and the Bath Water
- • The Foundation for All Healing
- 2013 (104)
- December (12)
- • Activate Your Creative Power With Conscious Intention
- • Riding the Train of Life – Symbolism to Navigate the Tracks of Your Journey
- • Are We the Makers of Our Own Fate?
- • Lighting Your Truth to Freedom, Passion & Inspired Leadership – Closing Chapter 2013 to Write Chapter 2014′s Lively & Instinctual Year of the Horse
- • The Power of a Poor Night’s Sleep
- • Why Entrepreneurship Is A Spiritual Expression Of Freedom
- • Death and Dying from a Shamanic Perspective
- • Sliding Home For Christmas
- • The Solstice Vibe
- • You’re Only As Strong As Your Weakest Link But As Wise As Your Strongest
- • The Speed of Infinity
- • World Aids Day – December 1st
- November (29)
- • The Courage To Live Box Less -- Getting Outside The Label Labyrinth
- • The Quantum Leap Ascension Process
- • Toronto Named Most Youth Friendly City
- • Thanksgiving Day Recalibration
- • Stop Looking And See
- • Getting the Doomsday Hunger?
- • What I Hope to Be Next Year
- • At The Point of No Return
- • The Faery Referral Network
- • Thoughts on Compassion and Detachment
- • Top Ten Myths About Being a Psychic/Healer
- • Tell the “Lords” of Karma That You Are Sovereign – No Longer a Lightworker Part 2
- • Where New JFK Evidence Points - 50 Years Later + Videos
- • 3 Reasons Why It’s Better to NOT Manifest a Soul Mate Relationship
- • 10 Tycoons Who Meditate Daily To Keep Up With Their Hectic Business Life
- • Why We Should Rethink What We've Been Told About Consciousness
- • The Value of “Sloth” – Expanding Our Perceptions for Greater Wisdom
- • Why Your Voice Matters and How To Get Heard
- • Breaking the Barriers of Belief
- • Stop Being "Positive" & Start Getting Real (Joy) In Your Life
- • Are We Living in the Matrix?
- • Is the Sharing Economy Here Yet?
- • Find Your Power in Self-Sufficiency
- • Heads Up
- • Plants Exhibit The Same Senses As Humans And See, Touch, Smell, Hear and Even Taste
- • Healing The Wound(s) Within The Heart Chakra
- • True or False? I Am Perfect Just As I Am
- • Indigenous Elders and Medicine Peoples Council Statement on Fukushima
- • A Phoenix Rising - A Recommended Read
- October (18)
- • 20 Good Reasons to Have Clear Personal Boundaries
- • Let Go of Who You Are to Become What You Might Be
- • How to Be Happy: The 10-Day Happiness Challenge
- • The Law of Assumption
- • A Message from the Faeries
- • New Device Stores Electricity On Silicon Chips
- • The NAME
- • 6 Big Excuses That Can Derail Your Life
- • A Clean Break
- • An Original Blueprint
- • Your Angry Voice Demolishes Your Brilliant Argument
- • Where the Action Is NOW– Relationships
- • Homo Luminous: The New Human
- • The Two New Humanities
- • How Do I Discern the Real from False?
- • Walking on Sacred Ground
- • Not All Have Halos
- • AGAIN, Remember Who You Are
- September (14)
- • Be Careful of How You Use Words!
- • Frequency Gates – What The Heck Are They?
- • Following Our Joy to Find Freedom
- • You`ve Been Warned: Why You Need To Be Ready for Total Grid Failure
- • Spirituality and Ethics in Business
- • Life – The Projection From Within
- • 10 Ways to Shift Your Consciousness
- • The Fall Inside
- • Fall Equinox-The Gate Closes
- • Self Honesty May Deepen the Bliss Into Actualization and Full Embodiment
- • Changing Dynamics of Relationships
- • Biophotons
- • Autumn Equinox 2013 Cosmic Weather Forecast
- • Autumn Equinox: The Archangel Michael Meditation
- August (4)
- July (4)
- June (3)
- May (12)
- • How Gratitude Can Help You Through Hard Times
- • The World of Opposites: A New Take
- • The God Gene
- • Souls of Animals
- • What If Television News Disappeared?
- • Every Warrior’s Achilles Heel
- • Building Your Spiritual Muscles
- • Transmuting Collective Human Consciousness By Channeling Light
- • Is DMT the Gateway to Hell?
- • The Psychological Crossroad of An Unhappy Life
- • Science Finds Fountain of Youth Brain Region That Slows Down Aging
- • Remember The Power Of The Voice
- April (6)
- March (1)
- February (1)
- December (12)
- 2012 (5)