Five reasons for tears – Why people cry

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People get teary-eyed on all sorts of occasions. Everyone knows that. But can the triggers also be categorized? A study can answer this question and provides surprising insights.

Human tears are an exciting phenomenon. They not only wet the eye or flush out foreign bodies but also flow when strong emotions are involved. Humans are probably the only living creatures that cry for emotional reasons. A research team from the Universities of Ulm and Sussex has categorized these reasons.

Why do people need to cry?
Based on a total of more than one thousand reports from adults, the experts were able to identify some thematic triggers. They published the results in the scientific journal “Motivation and Emotion.” According to the findings, human tear flows can be divided into five categories: Loneliness, powerlessness, overwhelm, harmony, and media consumption.

The division into these categories is based on the consideration that emotional tears always occur when basic psychological needs are either not met or are met very intensively, the researchers explained. “Similar to basic biological needs, such as sleep or food, it is assumed that the frustration or satisfaction of these psychological factors influences our subjective well-being,” explained Michael Barthelmäs, who was involved in the study in Ulm.

When you grieve, your body suffers too
The researchers point out, for example, that loneliness is caused by an unfulfilled need for closeness – and can thus lead to tears. They also include tears due to lovesickness or homesickness in this category. On the other hand, tears of joy occur after the intense satisfaction of the need for harmony – for example, at a wedding, according to the researchers. As an example of tears due to powerlessness, they cite, for example, the reaction to news of a death.

Every fourth observed tear episode fell into the category “media consumption,” which has several distinctive features. Compared to the other types, the person crying is only indirectly affected, and the tears occur “vicariously.” The trigger is an experience that happens to the main character of a book or movie, in which the person empathizes. In addition, tears can be shed in a drama, but just as well in a comedy, so in this category, there can be tears of joy and sadness.

You are okay when you cry.
Clearly distinguish emotional tears from so-called basal tears, which keep the eye moist and protect it. The researchers also left out tears as a reflex to cold, wind, or when cutting onions in their study.

To find out more about human crying, the research team asked people in two online surveys about their reasons for emotional tears. In another experiment, test subjects were asked to keep a daily diary. This showed, for example, that younger people cried more often than older people due to excessive demands. The psychologists see the study as a basis for further research into the phenomenon of emotional tears. Until now, there has been a lack of knowledge about the influence of tears on whether one person supports another, said co-author Johannes Keller. The role of emotional tears in mental illness is also still unclear. He said that identifying the five most common reasons for crying could help answer these questions in the future.

Source: ntv.de, sba/dpa/picture: Bild von StockSnap auf Pixabay

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