Why do we cry?


Why do we cry?

From someone who sobs uncontrollably at the slightest upset, to someone so lacking in tears there are questions raised as to whether they have tear ducts – why is it that human beings cry?

Michael Trimble, a behavioural neurologist, says there is very little known about why people cry.

Charles Darwin once declared emotional tears “purposeless” – while other species shed tears reflexively as a result of pain or irritation, humans are the only creatures whose tears can be triggered by their feelings.

Others have been speculating about where our tears come from for centuries but evidence is mounting in support of new, more plausible theories.

One is that tears trigger social bonding and human connection – humans are almost the only animals who come into the world vulnerable and physically unequipped to deal with anything on their own and we never quite grow out of the occasional bout of helplessness.

“Crying signals to yourself and other people that there’s some important problem that is at least temporarily beyond your ability to cope,” Jonathan Rottenberg, an emotion researcher and professor of psychology at the University of South Florida told TIME. “It very much is an outgrowth of where crying comes from originally.”

Scientists have also found that emotional tears are very different to those as a result of a physical reaction to the likes of an onion.

Tears also show others we are vulnerable which is critical to human connection.

Trimble says: “There must have been some point in time, evolutionarily, when the tear became something that automatically set off empathy and compassion in another. Actually being able to cry emotionally, and being able to respond to that, is a very important part of being human.”



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