Why Do We Cry: The Obvious Question
We know why we cry; when our emotions become excited, sometimes liquid flows from our eyes. However, beyond this very basic observation (you don’t really need a scientist to explain it to you, or anyone for that matter) no one has really been able to explain the reason for releasing tears when we are upset. That is to say, until very recently, there had been no explanation for why we cry that covers the biological mechanics and their purposes. Like yawning, the reason for why we cry seems to be an evolutionary mystery.
Curiosity Bubbles About Why We Cry
Until now. While scientists still do not have all the answers, a new study may have unlocked one of the reasons why we cry, or more specifically, what the function of crying women serve. This study was instigated because a curious neuroscientist in Israel, Noam Sobel, noticed that the chemical make-up for tears are different than the chemical make-up for plain watery eyes (the liquid which fills the eye due to allergies or when the wind hits your face in a fast moving car, for example). As man of neuroscience, Sobel knew that there was probably an evolutionary reason why tears would be chemically different than other liquids from the eyes and made the leap to consider that this could explain, at least partially, why we cry.
The “Why Do We Cry” Emotional Experiment
In order to answer the inquiry of why do we cry and test the tears which are created while individuals cry, Sobel had to construct an emotional experiment which would allow tears to be collected without compromising the comfort of participants or the ethical credibility of his research. However, a solution was found; Sobel collected a number of participants who reportedly cry very easily and showed them an emotional movie. This meant no participant had to undergo emotional distress higher than anything they would have willingly done to themselves without straying from the realm of a stable adult in order for the emotional experiment to proceed.
For one reason or another, the next step in Sobel’s emotion experiment aimed at discovering why we cry involved testing the smell of these collected tears by exposing the liquid to men. Perhaps this was done because it is already known the body releases pheromones which send important messages to other humans, and it’s obvious a possible reason why we cry is to send messages to other humans in order to gain support or empathy. Because we know so little about why we cry, it follows this emotional experiment would borrow from findings in other experiments which are related. In any event, the “Why We Cry” study had two groups of men, one which smelled pads which had been dipped in collected tears, and the other which smelled pads which had been dipped in saline in order to create a control group.
What did this emotional experiment find which may answer the question “Why do we cry?” Both groups of men were shown photographs of women. The men which were part of the emotional experiment control group reported higher levels of excitement and attraction, and also had higher levels of testosterone in their saliva, than did the group of men exposed to tears. This indicates that we may cry to chemically send messages to others indicating our unhappiness, which is then also responded to biologically, specifically in a drop of attraction.
Implications of the Potential Reason For Why We Cry
If this emotional experiment is a gateway to answering the question “Why do we cry?” we must consider how ingenious this interaction is. Think about it for a moment; when we cry, we are sometimes incapable of of speaking or explaining ourselves verbally. Or, thinking about the human species’ development, we did not always have the necessary language to communicate our feelings even in the best of situations, though we assume that we have always been able to cry. Therefore, it seems conditions have been in place for us to evolve to cry. Why do we cry? It looks like we cry to send chemical messages we were previous unaware of.
Weaver, Janelle. “Crying Women Turn Men Off: Scientific American.” Science News, Articles and Information | Scientific American. 2011. Web. 07 June 2011. http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=crying-women-turn-men-off.