Shedding tears is a natural part of the human experience. From sadness, and grief to joy and overwhelming happiness, people may cry for various reasons.
While it’s true that the primary function of tears is to lubricate the eyes, that’s only part of the story. Shedding emotional tears has long been the subject of scientific investigation.
More than lube, a heart’s release
A recent study from the Weizmann Institute of Science found that emotional tears in the eyes of women have a chemical effect on men.
Previous studies have identified odorless chemical signals in the tears of female mice that dampen intermale aggression by inhibiting activity in the males’ aggression-related brain networks. In a similar vein, subordinate male blind mole rats use tears as a protective measure, covering themselves to diminish aggression toward them from dominant males.
Human tears share more similarities with those of other animals than previously believed. Similar to the tears of mice and blind mole rats, human tears contain chemicals that can diminish aggression in others.
Tears’ Influence on Aggression: Human Studies Mirror Rodent Findings
Researchers investigated whether tears have a similar aggression-blocking effect in humans as observed in rodents.
In experiments, men without knowing sniffed either women’s emotional tears or saline and played a game designed to provoke aggression. Men exposed to emotional tears showed a nearly 44% reduction in revenge-seeking aggressive behavior during the game, highlighting a potential link between human tears and aggression modulation.