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    Why Do We Cry? Eight Half-Baked Ideas
    By Mark Changizi | July 20th 2010 09:36 AM | 89 comments | Print | E-mail | Track Comments
    About Mark

    Mark Changizi is Director of Human Cognition at 2AI, and the author of The Vision Revolution (Benbella 2009) and Harnessed: How...

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    Crying is a waste of perfectly good water. So why we do it? I have no idea, so I would like to hear your ideas. To get the ball rolling, here are eight hypotheses, each surely inadequate and probably false.


    (1) Purple Haze: When the tears “well up” under the skin, even before overflowing, the skin changes color, darkening and becoming purplish. Given that our color vision may have evolved for seeing skin color changes (do a Google search of “primate rump” but without the scare quotes to find my paper on this), one wonders whether tears are all about changing the skin’s color while still under the skin. Perhaps the flowing-over of the tears is just a side story. It seems, however, unlikely that the overflowing tears is just a side effect. Why not reabsorb it? And once the tears come out, it is likely the more visually salient feature, not the purple bags of skin under the eyes. 


    (2) Seen Sheen: Perhaps the water visibly in the eyes and on the face creates a highly salient sheen, and this is the key. We are, indeed, highly sensitive to the signature “glimmer” of water, and perhaps this makes the face’s sad emotion easier to see. But modifying the face via muscle expressions would seem to be even easier to see. And even if tear-sheens are especially visible, why should sadness (and to a lesser extent happiness) be the emotion that utilizes this trick?


    (3) Unstoppable: It can be very difficult to control a cry – which is why at the Harley Club Movie Night I go to the bathroom just before Bambi’s mother is shot by hunters – and that kind of uncontrollability is often a virtue for emotions. It let’s the viewer “know” he or she is not being manipulated. This could be part of the story of cries, but we would want to know why color signals (mediated via blood physiological changes under the skin, like blushes and blanches) aren’t enough, because color signals are also out of our control.


    (4) Water-Handicap: On the topic of manipulating others, another way to convince others that you’re sad is to sacrifice something important to yourself. Perhaps tears are the sacrifice: by giving up perfectly good precious water, the crier is generally deemed to be more honestly signaling. …because crying is costly.


    (5) Salt-Lick: Tears are salty and wet, just the thing animals love to lick. Perhaps tears are put out to attract grooming behaviors and intimacy from loved ones. (…who love you even though they need to be bought off by salt-licks to come to your aid.)


    (6) That Wet Feeling: This idea is from my seven year old daughter. “Perhaps,” she said, “tears let us feel how sad we are.” The idea that our facial expressions are crucial in driving our inner emotions – rather than the other way around – has a long history. My daughter wasn’t intending to refer to that, I don’t think, but, rather, that the wet feeling on one’s face helps give one better feedback about how sad one appears to others. Rather than the usual proprioceptive sense of our facial expressions, her point was that the wet feel of tears is a special, extra proprioceptive sense of our sadness expression. The wet skin may even make the muscular facial expression easier to sense (i.e., in addition to the intrinsic wet feel). Why, though, should this extra-powerful proprioceptive sense be especially needed for sadness?


    (7) Wet-for-a-While: Once the tears have overflowed, they stick around until they evaporate (or until the last lick of your, ahem, loved ones). To the extent that the tear-glimmer serves to signal sadness, one can keep up the sadness signal without having to put on one’s sad face. Relax your face, and let your water do the fussing on your face for the next ten minutes. 


    (8) Bucket-O-Tears: Facial expressions due to muscles on the face don’t tell you how long they’ve been being expressed. Tears, on the other hand, are more “additive”. The more you cry, the wetter your face, and eventually your neck, chest and Bowling Enthusiast magazine. Why, though, would this kind of “additivity” matter for sadness and not other expressions?


    With the quality of my thinking on this matter out on the table, hopefully you now feel no inhibition whatsoever to propose your own idea. And if we can put together a somewhat coherent one, then we can look into how we might test it.

    But don’t be a cry-baby about it.

    Comments

    I think tears are an S.O.S., but they are widely abused by whiners and fakers.

    Hi Mark,

    I thought your blog is very interesting. See my own blog above for a rather 'off the wall' reason why I think we cry. It may sound totally odd, but I do believe it is plausible.

    Regards

    Mark

    I think it's most likely a combination of several of those factors. For one thing, tears of sadness often flow at times when one is so emotionally distraught that it is difficult or even impossible to verbalize the feelings. Crying obviously elicits a strong reaction in those observing (for various reasons you stated above), so much so that there is no need to verbalize beyond the act of crying itself.

    And although you seem to be focusing on the emotional/psychological connections of crying within community, another viable theory is that tears help the crier feel better, both physically and psychologically, at times of extreme emotional distress. Sorry for the lack of links (I believe William Frey is the one who has done most of these types of studies), but studies have shown that people feel measurably better after a good cry. In fact, Frey has documented that tears of grief or sadness have more toxins & the toxin-removing protein albumin in them than tears from peeling an onion, so aside from the emotional stress relief they can bring, they may also bring some sort of actual physical relief as well. Another study (again, forgive me for the lack of links!) showed tears remove certain endorphins, like prolactin, that can help lower stress.

    I think you can get a solid working theory of why we cry, but it would have to include a variety of the things you stated, as well as some of the physical and psychological relief it can give to the actual crier.

    Here's a good article on this topic for further reading: http://www.epjournal.net/filestore/EP075256.pdf

    "In fact, Frey has documented that tears of grief or sadness have more toxins & the toxin-removing protein albumin in them than tears from peeling an onion, so aside from the emotional stress relief they can bring, they may also bring some sort of actual physical relief as well."

    Perhaps this explains why my skin always feels clearer and brighter a few hours after a cry, though I seldom cry without the trigger of talking with a close friend or therapist about whatever is bothering me. Perhaps my acne has worsened recently in part because I haven't actively been talking about my issues as much lately (and hence crying).

    Well, I don't know that I'd go that far. From what I recall from the Frey studies, the toxins in the tears were geared towards reducing stress more than curing an actual visible physical malady. I would actually hypothesize that dried tears on the face would cause MORE acne rather than less (although acne can also break out because of increased stress levels, so maybe crying reduces stress and a byproduct is clearer skin, or perhaps the salt dries the buildup of facial oils--I must admit this is all wild conjecture on my part, however, and has no basis in any real scientific studies).

    These laughing and crying mechanisms are how the brain heals itself. There is more going on in the human mind than the nannies and caretakers need to worry themselves about. The very notion of drugging these stimulations away is medically unnecessary and ethically unjustifiable. Join Citizens Commission on Human Rights like I did

    Mark Changizi
    It's unclear why, though, tears would be a sensible way to make one feel better. Psychologically, the water-tears themselves shouldn't seem to be essential. And physiologically, it seems hard to imagine that pushing it out through the eyes is the best way.

    As for the chemical difference between onion-peel and cry tears, one could imagine that the former is designed for windshield washer reasons, whereas the latter designed for, uh, not sure what, but not that.

    Thanks for the link, although they don't seem to have much of a theory, in my opinion.

    As a theorist, I'd want to know why water on the face is somehow the "logical" choice for sadness (and, to a lesser extent, happiness), but not for the other emotions.

    "As for the chemical difference between onion-peel and cry tears, one could imagine that the former is designed for windshield washer reasons, whereas the latter designed for, uh, not sure what, but not that."

    Yes, and that was my point actually--that emotional tears are different than tears irritation and therefore have a purpose specific to emotion, which is most likely a combination of signals to others as well as the release of chemicals that have been linked with the reduction of stress, both of which would be evolutionarily advantageous for our species.

    Being the one of the most social and emotionally complex species on the planet, I think it's obvious why some form of signal/stress reduction mechanism like tears were selected for. The question of why through the eyes is a good one, though. My only guess is because of that was one of the few orifices that could work in this capacity. One would think the orifices used for the release of excrement & urine wouldn't have been effective for signaling since they are located in places down and away from eye level. The mouth is a better option, but one would imagine the alternatives for the mouth would have been either vomiting or extreme salivation. Although in times of the most extreme emotional distress people can indeed vomit, one would think that to vomit in every instance where we now cry would wreak havoc on the esophagus. Salivation is a better alternative, although my guess is the need to salivate when food intake is imminent is more evolutionarily advantageous and would have made it impossible to tell the difference between "sadness" or "hunger". That leaves the ears and the eyes, and since the eyes are both more visible (to signal others) and already had a gland that secretes fluid to keep the eyes moist (matter of convenience), the eyes are actually a relatively "logical" place for the release of these fluids.

    I realize the above paragraph can be interpreted as me saying evolution was making these active "decisions" with the intent of evolving emotional tears, weighing these pros and cons, and I just want to be clear that is not what I'm saying at all. I'm just suggesting why the eyes may have indeed been the most "logical" outlet for an emotional signal/stress relief. Of course, maybe I'm still not offering a proper explanation to your question...

    Crying is more socially acceptable than flinging things (like poo) around the room to express your disappointment and despair.

    Maybe reverse engineering the idea - why is it that men are socially conditioned to not cry?

    the window washer aspect of tears, cleaning and lubricating the eye is understandable - but when you get emotional, often the eyes get hot feeling

    when I get very angry, my vision even tinges red with the increase in bllod flow - perhaps tears are to cool the eye, like a radiator?

    maybe it's a reaction like the blushing, the sadness creates a chemical wash

    we probably sweat more too when we experience strong emotions, but since the sweat occurs in a finer sheen everywhere, it's less noticable than the concentration of moisture from tears occuring on the face.

    crying is a strong emotion reaction, happy, sad, angry, laughing hard

    but also during illness, sneezing, coughing, choking

    basically, we're gooey and moist inside that anything that's going to make us clench up will result in spill overs.

    Mark Changizi
    I especially like the last way of saying it. That is, rather than asking why we cry, we should be asking why our bags of mostly water aren't spilling over much MORE often! Nice. -Mark
    I have always assumed that crying was a way for the body to reduce stress and relax. Similar to how sweating allows us to use evaporation to reduce temperature, crying is a way for the body to release extra chemicals. And specifically that the release of the chemicals allows us to destress in a way that other activities do not.

    It's similar to vomiting in this way. Sadness builds up unwanted toxins/stresses that can only be let out with tears. Happy tears would knock that idea, but then again one doesn't hurt (headache, neck-ache) as much after those...

    Mark Changizi
    I like the idea, and the metaphor to sweat and vomiting, but I don't buy it yet. Why would chemicals (presumably) already stored locally near the eyes reduce stress? Why pour them all over the face?
    Bonny Bonobo alias Brat
    I think its interesting that people, and possibly some animals (elephants, wolves, dolphins, whales, gorillas and bonobos, see http://www.aquaticape.org/tears.html) can both cry with laughter and cry with sadness. Often when trying to understand why we cry these tears of happiness and sadness it can help if we look at examples of when the process appears to malfunction. People who have suffered strokes or are suffering from neural disorders such as Parkinson's, Dementia or ALS/MND (Motor Neurone Disease) often display ‘emotional lability’, inappropriate or pathological laughter and crying episodes. My mother suffered from Motor Neurone Disease and experienced 'emotional lability' which often caused her a lot of distress as well as happiness, however personally I thought that her periods of uncontrolled crying and laughing, though often inappropriate at the time, were usually triggered by something that was genuinely funny or sad. I also think that they may have served some sort of beneficial excretion of toxins and/or salts and/or tension associated with this disorder. Many of the psychological papers investigating this area however, don’t seem to recognise this. see http://brain.oxfordjournals.org/cgi/content/abstract/124/9/1708?maxtosho... There is even a Pathological Laughter and Crying Scale (PLACS) to help diagnose this condition (See http://www.pbainfo.org/media/PLACS_final.pdf which is based on a series of questions such as :- 1. Have you recently experienced sudden episodes of laughter? Rate the frequency of the episodes during the past 2 weeks 2. Have you recently experienced sudden episodes of crying? Rate the frequency of the episodes during the past 2 weeks If you have experienced sudden episodes of laughter, please answer the following (questions 3 through 10), otherwise skip to question 11. Source: Robinson RG, Parikh RM, Lipsey JR, et al. Pathological laughing and crying following stroke: validation of a measurement scale and a double-blind treatment study. Am J Psychiatry. 1993;150:286-293. Throughout my life, like my mother, I have often found things funny when others didn’t and this used to get me into trouble, especially at school. Here is a good example that I found a few minutes ago in one of these papers about laughing and crying entitled ‘Neural Correlates of laughter and humour’ by Wild, Rodden, Grodd and Ruch, 2003) see http://brain.oxfordjournals.org/cgi/content/abstract/126/10/2121 Quote “Although laughter and humour have been constituents of humanity for thousands if not millions of years, their systematic study has begun only recently. Investigations into their neurological correlates remain fragmentary and the following review is a first attempt to collate and evaluate these studies, most of which have been published over the last two decades.” Quote “Analyses of the cerebral correlates of humour have been impeded by a lack of consensus among psychologists on exactly what humour is, and of what essential components it consists.” Ha ha. Does anyone else find this funny? The idea of a bunch of psychologists trying to agree on what humour is? Anyway, it looks to me as though tears of laughter and sadness serve very many purposes. They help us to communicate, relax, remove toxins, attract positive attention and responses from others and even help us to wash away negative feelings and objects and probably much more.
    My latest forum article 'Australian Researchers Discover Potential Blue Green Algae Cause & Treatment of Motor Neuron Disease (MND)&(ALS)' Parkinsons's and Alzheimer's can be found at http://www.science20.com/forums/medicine
    Gerhard Adam
    I suspect that it has little to do with anything except sensory overload of the lacrimal nerve. It seems that strong emotions can certainly trigger crying, but it can also be triggered intentionally by some (and controlled by others). In addition, involuntary tears from pain (especially being hit on the nose) also suggests excessive stimulation of the nerves from which tears are simply the byproduct of over-stimulation. It seems similar to the stimulation of the optic nerve (and the olfactory nerve reflex) which gives rise to sneezing due to sunlight (or bright lights). Just my two cents.
    Mundus vult decipi
    Bonny Bonobo alias Brat
    So Gerhard, I hope you don't mind me asking, but when did you last cry and why?
    My latest forum article 'Australian Researchers Discover Potential Blue Green Algae Cause & Treatment of Motor Neuron Disease (MND)&(ALS)' Parkinsons's and Alzheimer's can be found at http://www.science20.com/forums/medicine
    "I suspect that it has little to do with anything except sensory overload of the lacrimal nerve."

    I agree that this is the physical cause of crying, but does that explain why it's been selected for evolutionarily? That's the question I'd be interested in answering. And yes, some people can control their crying, but most people, even those who can cry intentionally, still cry unintentionally due to extreme emotion. Also, if you read some of my comments above, William Frey documented differences in the chemical makeup of tears cause by some form of irritation (I believe in his experiment it was onion) vs. emotional tears. Obviously this is an educated guess, but I would suspect that tears from getting hit in the nose would be more similar to the tears caused by cutting an onion than emotion. The fact that tears of emotion are different than simple irritation suggests to me that something more than a simple overload of the lacrimal nerve is going on.

    Just to expand a little bit on that, what I suggest is that crying STARTED OUT as a simple overload (due to irritation or physical stimulus e.g. being hit in the nose) of the lacrimal nerve causing the mucus/moisture designed to keep the eye wet to overflow. Evidence for this can be found when other mammals "cry". But at some point in human evolutionary history, or more probably humanoid evolutionary history, something changed and made emotional tears biologically unique to us in the animal kingdom (barring more conclusive evidence that this is also true of any other animals, which as of yet I have not seen).

    Gerhard Adam
    Well, you have to be careful in arguing that crying was "selected" for. After all, it might simply be a useful artifact that simply persisted. It would seem that one of the more obvious considerations is that it was a useful vehicle for gaining sympathy and engendering a request for protection. After all, we experience the same feelings when we observe the "sad eyes" of an animal. Since humans are uniquely social in many respects, much like Mark has discussed with the skin coloration issue, crying is simply another vehicle for trying to convey one's feelings to others which is a necessary condition in order to increase the cohesion of social relationships.
    Mundus vult decipi
    Mark Changizi
    But water flowing onto the face wouldn't be a "useful vehicle for gaining sympathy and engendering a request for protection" unless either (i) water-on-face accidentally tapped into sympathy/protection mechanisms, in which case a theory would need to explain why it happens to tap into that, or (ii) water-on-face itself co-evolved with mechanisms for noticing and reacting to it. No?
    Bonny Bonobo alias Brat
    I go for the latter, that 'water-on-face itself co-evolved with mechanisms for noticing and reacting to it'. Yes! Surely water on face has got to be a trigger, as it catches the light and magnifies and draws attention to the crier's or laugher's expressions. Just like a red bum is probably a trigger that draws attention from a baboon and the picture of a chimp on your book cover titled 'Harnessed - coming in 2011' in your profile banner has drawn my bonobo attention. I tried to magnify the smaller writing but still couldn't read it. Can you give us a quick summary of what the book is going to be about? Sorry if you've written it elsewhere in Science20 and I've missed it, I'm feeling a bit lazy. Its also interesting that babies cry for several months as newborns without tears. Maybe its only when they are a bit older that the mother attention needs to be drawn to more magnified, tear-stained information from the baby's facial expressions as to why the baby is crying, other than just early basic needs such as hunger, temperature etc.
    My latest forum article 'Australian Researchers Discover Potential Blue Green Algae Cause & Treatment of Motor Neuron Disease (MND)&(ALS)' Parkinsons's and Alzheimer's can be found at http://www.science20.com/forums/medicine
    Mark Changizi
    Sorry, I missed your earlier comment, and the crying-in-other-animals link. Interesting! Cogitating...

    (On Harnessed, the subtitle is... How Language and Music Mimicked Nature and Transformed Ape to Man. Some pieces where I've written about it are here: http://changizi.wordpress.com/category/news-on-my-next-book-harnessed/ )  -Mark
    Bonny Bonobo alias Brat
    Mark, I wondered if you had finished cogitating yet?
    My latest forum article 'Australian Researchers Discover Potential Blue Green Algae Cause & Treatment of Motor Neuron Disease (MND)&(ALS)' Parkinsons's and Alzheimer's can be found at http://www.science20.com/forums/medicine
    Gerhard Adam
    Well, if we are sympathetic based on our sense of "sadness" in the other animal (including humans), then the tears or "water -on-face" would simply be a means by which we recognize that it is the real thing. In other words, if tears are associated with intense nerve stimulation, then it becomes a matter of "proving" what is being felt. This is also why it is normally considered socially unacceptable to invoke tears simply to manipulate sympathy. I don't believe it's a coincidence that a woman's crying will typically invoke a man's protective instincts, while a man's crying tends to make them appear weak. While we might not like that association, it is something we all seem to recognize and understand.
    Mundus vult decipi
    "I don't believe it's a coincidence that a woman's crying will typically invoke a man's protective instincts, while a man's crying tends to make them appear weak. While we might not like that association, it is something we all seem to recognize and understand."

    I'm not so sure about this... I think part of the reason a man's crying appears weak may have to do more with modern social norms than anything else. History is full of stories of men weeping and crying, and oftentimes these come from the manliest heroes. If Odysseus were alive today he'd probably endure "blubbering woman" jokes everyday--I would guess he weeps in every chapter of the Iliad and the Odyssey. Men in the 17th century often cried at theatrical performances and even kings were known to weep at sermons. Obviously the past few generations, crying has been seen as extremely unmasculine to the point of revulsion, but even that has started to change again. 25 years ago, male politicians lost elections if they shed tears in public (Edmund Muskie's presidential bid in the '70s is probably the most infamous, and the poor guy only cried after hearing a report that his wife had been attacked). But nowadays, a teary-eyed politician, in the right circumstance, can come across as a "tough guy" showing some depth of emotion. It is no longer political suicide. Interestingly enough, when women politicians cry, it IS still political suicide. The difference is the men have a need to show that they have that emotional side, whereas women have to prove that they can act tough and overcome their "feminine" emotions.

    However stereotypical these views are, this is the current social climate surrounding crying in public, so I'd hesitate to call the way we react to men vs. women crying as completely "instinctual" and universal across cultures and periods of time.

    Gerhard Adam
    I understand what you're saying, and I probably was too simplistic in my point. Part of the stereotype problem is that it isn't about whether men cry, but rather the circumstances under which it occurs. It's not considered "unmanly" to cry after a friend has been lost in battle, or some other circumstance such as that of a leader losing scores of men. However, it would be considered unmanly (even in historical times) for a man to cry out of fear when going into battle. The emotional content is certainly more complex than I've mentioned, but there are still strong stereotypes (even in history) where there are appropriate contexts in which crying can occur. I don't believe that has changed. In addition, there is a vast difference in the stories, especially when the weeping may occur in private, or among peers, whereas such public displays would tend to be more frowned upon.
    ...I'd hesitate to call the way we react to men vs. women crying as completely "instinctual" and universal across cultures and periods of time.
    Probably true, but I certainly can't think of any exceptions. I would also distinguish between an individual crying versus a public display of crying. I suspect most people are distrustful of public displays as being manipulative attempts at garnering sympathy (which is my primary point).
    Mundus vult decipi
    And here we are, really no closer to answering Mark's question than when we started. :)

    Samshive
    Have you perhaps considered comparing a brain scan of an emotionally distraught person who isn't actually crying and someone who cuts onions and is crying. We both agree that crying while cutting onions has a purpose. What if the control circuitry for crying while cutting onions somehow is closely linked (at least in location) to the parts of the brain that are active during strong emotional upheavals. Forgive the technical difficulty of scanning someone's brain in either of those states, but I think, it could be possible that cross-wiring in the brain has occurred sometime in our ancestry. Why it might have been selected for is probably a far more difficult question, but this experiment could at least verify whether or not emotional states directly cause crying or if it is a remnant cross-wiring. Another interesting idea would be to perhaps study people who are more resistant to crying while cutting onions and see if there is any correspondence to how much more easily they can hold back their tears in a really emotional occurrence - this might be easier practically than my brain scan idea. My personal opinion on the matter is that it probably was a remnant cross-wiring that allowed our social ancestors to become more cohesive. For example - consider the possibility of one individual in a group (call him hero) being aware of another one crying (call her victim). If the cause of the tears in victim was a third individual (aptly called villain) - then hero can rouse the group to ostracize villain. This would explain the predominance of crying while sad. Of course my hypothesis would only work in a social species- so another research area would be to see if crying for emotional reasons occurs in less social species. Again, just a thought - use it, don't use it.
    Mark Changizi
    Thanks. Your hero/victim/villain story may well be right, say, but even so, what I'd still want to know is whether there is anything helpful about having water be the signal, rather than just some standard facial expression.

    It seems very unlikely to me that water would be just an accident we're stuck with. Although a mutation could in principle explain the origination of the mechanism, it would almost surely have been selected out unless water on the face were somehow a helpful thing for sadness-signaling. ...because water on the face is a waste of water, not to mention annoying! :)
    onion crying can be thwarted by running the knife under cold water between cuts

    but also putting a spoon in your mouth while you cut

    somehow the metal negates the onion impact.

    I am extremely sensitive to onion and my eyes water even hours after the onion's been cooked and eaten.

    My half-baked addition:

    As far as I know, we humans are unlike animals in reacting to the deaths of deceased loved ones so long after their deaths. We tend to keep their bodies around for days, and come into close proximity of them during funerals. This may not be a problem with modern undertaking methods, but it may have been dangerous in the past. Infections can be contracted through the eye, and my idea is that tears are a preemptive act against this. The same could be said of the mucosal flushing (sniffles) that often accompanies crying.

    Grieving is far from the only reason we cry, of course, but it would be enough to effect evolution if it were advantageous to cry during just that one expression of sadness. Crying would be mapped to the emotion, and any instance of strong sadness would bring about lacrimation.

    ...thoughts?

    Mark Changizi
    I love it! Crazy enough to potentially be true. Which doesn't mean I think it is! :) Yet.

    One prediction it might make is that species that are scavengers should tear while eating their putrid pudding. Do hyenas, say, cry when they eat? Or vultures?
    Bonny Bonobo alias Brat
    You say that “we humans are unlike animals in reacting to the deaths of deceased loved ones so long after their deaths. We tend to keep their bodies around for days, and come into close proximity of them during funerals”. However, there is plenty of evidence of animals other than humans also doing this, for example see http://www.ufodigest.com/graveyard.html by Dirk Vander Ploeg (OK its a UFO news site, but its also referencing New Scientist which references this scientific study) Quote "The elephants showed a strong preference towards an elephant skull (middle) rather than the skulls of a buffalo or a rhino, Image: Royal Society/Karen McComb" see http://www.ufodigest.com/graveyard.html (If my rich text editor would work I could have inserted this image here, its very frustrating, I could almost cry! Please fix it for me one day Hank and Patrick or I'm going to start thinking you're specists) Quote “Researchers from the United Kingdom and Kenya have learned that elephants are aware and show interest and emotion when they come across elephant skulls and tusks. They do not show interest in bones or skulls of other animals. Some African elephants have become emotional and highly agitated when they come across elephant remains.” Quote “The study of the creatures' responses to skulls and ivory suggests strongly that they recognize relatives. Only humans and a few other animals demonstrate awareness of the remains of their own kind. Chimpanzees seem to have rituals concerning their dead and only abandon the bodies when they begin to decompose.” Its interesting that all of these animals are also the ones who cry with emotion (see my earlier post above).” Personally I don’t think that crying has anything to do with preventing infection from decaying corpses because like Mark I think hyenas, dogs etc would also cry. Instead, in order to try to understand crying, it would be useful for us all to honestly examine when was the last time we cried and why, because as even scientists must agree, crying is both an objective and a subjective experience. Did crying help to relieve unbearable stress from sad experiences or even from ridiculous comedy, or were you just peeling an onion? I think that there are probably some people who only shed tears if they’re peeling an onion or punched on the nose but is it possible that those people also socially inept? Do they also suffer health consequences over the years from not using their crying safety valve? I wonder if anyone has done a study on people with heart problems and found out if there is a correlation between not crying and either developing high blood pressure and/or heart problems? The last time I cried was only last week, I was driving along in my car and a song came on the radio that reminded me of my recently deceased mother "You'll Never Find Another Love Like Mine" by Lou Rawls . I stopped the car and bawled my eyes out, more than anytime since she had died. Afterwards I felt much better, it was definitely beneficial for me and wasn’t occuring to attract anyone else’s attention, the opposite was true, I probably wouldn’t have cried if I had not been alone.
    My latest forum article 'Australian Researchers Discover Potential Blue Green Algae Cause & Treatment of Motor Neuron Disease (MND)&(ALS)' Parkinsons's and Alzheimer's can be found at http://www.science20.com/forums/medicine
    if you cry long or hard enough, it's not just tears wetting your face, but also thinned out mucus from your nose spilling downward.

    Perhaps crying started off as a healing advantage - tearing up removes particals from your eye and if you're sick and unwell with a sinus, then crying helps to thin out that mucus and let it flow.

    but it probably is to attract care from loved ones and to signal distress - babies howl to indicate they need attention, usually because they've wet themsleves at the end incapable of facial expression

    so maybe the face gets damp in sympathy?

    vongehr
    I am really surprised that the article does not and only a single out of so many comments mentions the nasal mucous. Some social animals cry in situations when emotionally laden communication has taken place, which is often close face to face involving relatively violent, mouth related sounds (screaming) and in some species, especially those that have in such circumstances rather wet expressions (elephant trumpet, horse lips going ppbblpblplb, humans sometimes even spitting somewhat when talking loudly in an agitated state), crying and nasal slime removal cleans out the many germ laden micro droplets from the eyes and nose while increased swallowing flushes stuff from the mouth and nose into the stomach acid. [Sounds authoritative, doesn't it? I just pulled that out of my ass though. ;) ]
    Rickard
    I read the first line: "Crying is a waste of perfectly good water" and began to think about another related question. We humans are rather unique because we can cry tears, but our perspiration system is also unique. Our ability to cry was, perhaps, in the beginning a by-product of the development of the perspiration system. We sweat because of emotions too: when we are sad, angry, afraid and so on. It seems to me there is some connection here. If this is the evolutionary background, it is easier to understand why tears became a distinct sign of sadness.

    (Here I don't touch another strange thing: why Homo sapiens, who is supposed to have been evolved on the savanna, wasting so much water through perspiration, when other animals in the same environment waste as little water they can. That is another question.)
    Mark Changizi
    That seems to deepen the mystery, indeed. -Mark
    Rickard
    Not really. The ability to cry should depend on our perspiration system, and this we have primarily for thermoregulation because we have no body hair. We don't really know why we are a "naked ape" (and have our effective sweat glans instead); but as I said, this is another question.
    Gerhard Adam
    Actually I'm not clear on what you mean by "wasting water"? 
    ...when other animals in the same environment waste as little water they can...
    I'm not sure that this is accurate.  There are other larger animals that also sweat (i.e. zebras, giraffes), which would suggest that regulating body temperature is considerably more important than the volume of water lost during sweating.

    I'm also not convinced that water loss through panting is any less significant depending on the size of the animal.
    (see:  http://www.wolfweb.com.au/acd/strategiesforhydration.htm)

    Because the maximal panting frequency will therefore be inversely related to body size, this may explain the observation that in a range of bovid animals of different adult body size that use both panting and sweating, the larger species utilize sweating more than panting as a strategy for increasing evaporative heat loss
    http://jap.physiology.org/cgi/content/full/101/2/664
    It would seem that a possible flaw in the statement of "wasting water" is that it actually isn't wasted if it is used for temperature regulation.  While it might not seem like the most efficient mechanism, it is also clear that it is pervasive enough that "natural selection" clearly favored it as a solution.

    Part of the issue really relates to the concerns about the availability of water, since that is a fundamental element of whether a resource is "wasted" or not.   Since even crying doesn't occur if the individual is becoming dehydrated, then this suggests that the water isn't being "wasted", but is being conserved.  On the other hand, such a state presents a much more serious problem since the individual will have to expend a fair amount of energy to get to water, if it isn't available.

    While access to water is not necessarily easy, it is essential and non-negotiable.  Therefore the body's use of water is not done from the perspective of being able to survive for days without it. 


    Mundus vult decipi
    Rickard
    I'm not sure that this is accurate.  There are other larger animals that also sweat (i.e. zebras, giraffes), which would suggest that regulating body temperature is considerably more important than the volume of water lost during sweating.

    Okej. Animals on the savanna perhaps don't need to be so very careful with the water. This is not what I learn, but it can really be true.
    Gerhard Adam
    I would also question whether the amount of water lost during crying is even as much as the volume lost through normal respiration in a day (not sweating).

    After all, crying isn't an ongoing activity, nor is it a required one.  On the other hand, if crying can get you a drink of water, then its paid for itself.
    Mundus vult decipi
    Bonny Bonobo alias Brat
    Have you noticed that if you cry profusely the tears can flow down your face and into your mouth? So, we were not necessarily losing water on the savannah, we might have been just getting a quick salty drink to cheer us up in an upsetting situation. Still this doesn't explain why we cry with laughter, we're already happy but still we might appreciate a salty drink to calm us down or bring us to our senses maybe? Personally, I think the water survival component to this discussion is barking up the wrong tree. If we look at the facts, humans, elephants and some apes cry, so there goes the bald, perspiration, quick drink and water loss hypotheses. Scavenging animals like dingoes and hyenas don't cry so there also goes the tears are anti-bacterial hypothesis. New born babies don't cry until they reach a certain age in months and I think this is a pretty important aspect of why some people and animals cry. Crying must have somehow helped the survival of these older babies and children. The tears falling are maybe a way of authenticating their crying to the adults. Proving that they are not crocodile tears, that they are real tears and that they are genuinely upset, because only the best actors can cry to order. Most actors would also admit that they think of something very upsetting to make themselves cry, so the tears are still genuine only the apparent reason that they are crying on stage or in a film is not genuine. How else could tears benefit an older baby or child? Maybe the adults saw the glistening tears as something salty to lick, after all salt was difficult to find for most of evolution. So maybe the salt was a genuine life preserving attraction.Maybe the tears blinded the crier and distracted them or stopped them from being able to see properly to continue doing whatever was causing them to cry in the first place? Maybe the tears are like yawning, they trigger a similar response from the observer, who was somehow harming or ignoring the baby or child. The child cries visibly with tears which prompts the attacker to change from being aggressive or negligent to being more empathic. Maybe crying also somehow stops the body from going into shock when an accident happens or maybe it simply washes away any foreign bodies in or around the eyes before they can do too much harm. People in shock don't cry. I should think that for hundreds of thousands of years of evolution anything that protected the eyes would have been very beneficial as most blind animals and people would have quickly died, but then that still doesn't explain why only some humans and animals cry. How many animals yawn when they see another animal yawn? And why do they do this? Maybe like yawning we feel sad when we see someone else is crying tears, and happy when we see someone else laughing tears of happiness. Maybe the tears have helped to transmit that life-saving message by emphasising and drawing attention to it? Maybe over the hundreds of thousands of years of evolution a crying or laughing person or animal stopped an attacker from killing them in a fight by distracting them long enough for them to lose the adrenalin-fueled urge to kill them. Those that didn't cry or laugh were killed and had no offspring. Something funny once happened when I was once upset and cried in front of my horses. I was doing my usual morning walk around our fruit farm when I came across 300 lychee trees that had been savagely pruned down to brocolli like stumps. I was absolutely furious, screamed out loud and then charged over the hill crying as I went. I've always hated radical tree pruning, but of course a year later the trees were fine. Anyway, to my amazement my five horses came charging after me, formed a circle around me and then started nuzzling me with their noses until I stopped crying and started laughing. I later found out that this is how horses calm down foals when they are distressed, as foals can often injure themselves flying around in an emotional state.
    My latest forum article 'Australian Researchers Discover Potential Blue Green Algae Cause & Treatment of Motor Neuron Disease (MND)&(ALS)' Parkinsons's and Alzheimer's can be found at http://www.science20.com/forums/medicine
    Rickard

    Personally, I think the water survival component to this discussion is
    barking up the wrong tree. If we look at the facts, humans, elephants and some apes cry, so there goes the bald, perspiration, quick drink and
    water loss hypotheses. Scavenging animals like dingoes and hyenas don't
    cry so there also goes the tears are anti-bacterial hypothesis.

    The "water survival component" was never the main point here. Other animals can shed tears, but like the perspiration, it seems humans do it more and different. We are the only - or one of the few - animal who shed emotional tears. This is the best ref I can find right now:

    "In animals, it is virtually impossible to tell if their tears are the result of emotions or merely caused by eye irritation. Most scientists agree, however, that humans are the only animals who produce emotional tears.
    While animals may not weep like humans, they do, however, emit cries which seem to indicate emotional distress. Baby animals of all kinds will vocalize when separated from their mothers. Baby elephants in particular produce a very sad, keening sound which sounds like weeping. Hunters and some wildlife experts have claimed that the sound of a bear cub cries, when separated from its mother is remarkably similar to the cries of a human baby. In these cases, the cries probably serve as a form of direct communication with the mother."

    You also write this:

    Crying must have somehow helped the survival of these older babies and children. The tears falling are maybe a way of authenticating their crying to the
    adults. Proving that they are not crocodile tears, that they are real
    tears and that they are genuinely upset, because only the best actors
    can cry to order.

    Yes, I can believe this. There must be a reason why humans at all evolved the ability to cry emotional tears, and this seems fair.
    Bonny Bonobo alias Brat
    The author of the article on this website deduces that there is not enough evidence that animals produce emotional tears but I think that it is interesting that plenty of zoologists and experts that he references think that animals do cry emotional tears. See http://www.aquaticape.org/tears.html Quote “From Frey's Chapter 14: Do Animals Shed Emotional Tears? from pp. 135-139: "Some Scientists Say Animals Cry Tears - In this section Frey mentions "several reports of animals shedding emotional tears -- or what were interpreted as emotional tears -- in the scientific literature cannot be ignored." “Frey opens with Darwin's reports of tears in Indian elephants. Frey also points out the information that AAT/H proponents never seem to mention (even though it appears on the same page of Darwin's Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals); that Darwin reported contrary information from his correspondents in Ceylon, where observations of recently captured elephants showed no tearing, and "the native hunters asserted they had never observed elephants weeping".” “from pp. 139-141: "What Animal Experts Say" Quote “In this section, Frey and his co-writer sent out questionnaires to zoos, animal parks, and marine parks, veterinarians, etc., to see if any of them reported ever seeing emotional tears in nonhuman animals. “Brian Davies, "an animal protectionist and executive director of the International Fund for Animal Welfare" (he's written two books protesting the harp seal hunts in Canada) says yes for seals. Wayne Franzen, trainer of Okha (an Indian elephant), and co-owner of Franzen Brothers Circus, says yes for Indian elephant.” “Ian Douglas-Hamilton, "who has done extensive studies of African elephants replied, 'I cannot say that I observed emotional tears in African elephants, although I have seen tears appear when they have been shot or wounded. It is possible that these may be related to emotion, but I am sorry to say I really do not have enough observation in this to say one way or the other'." “Then Frey continues with reports of other animals shedding tears: dogs and wolves (Cecil Reynolds 1925); seal (Ronald M. Lockley 1966 Grey Seal, Common Seal); sea otter (Georg W. Stellar); lab rats (red tears from Harderian glands [the same types of glands that elephants have]) (John E. Harkness and Marcella D. Ridgeway); and gorilla (Dian Fossey 1983 Gorillas in the Mist).”
    My latest forum article 'Australian Researchers Discover Potential Blue Green Algae Cause & Treatment of Motor Neuron Disease (MND)&(ALS)' Parkinsons's and Alzheimer's can be found at http://www.science20.com/forums/medicine
    Rickard
    Yes, good. We can have a scientific perspective and say as it is: an open question. An interesting field for more research, I think.
    Bonny Bonobo alias Brat
    I just reread what I have written and realised I should have said 'New born babies don't cry TEARS until they reach a certain age in months and I think this is a pretty important aspect of why some people and animals cry".
    My latest forum article 'Australian Researchers Discover Potential Blue Green Algae Cause & Treatment of Motor Neuron Disease (MND)&(ALS)' Parkinsons's and Alzheimer's can be found at http://www.science20.com/forums/medicine
    Since I've been crying a lot lately over an extremely bad work situation, I am starting to wonder if crying when distressed (as opposed to something in the eye) is a means for pheromones or something to be released to make people respond in a protective manner.

    It's been interesting to cry in front of people in a variety of manners - tears & sobbing, tears & trembling voice, tears and being matter of fact - and get different responses to each type of crying from the same people.

    Mark Changizi
    Been out for a week, and thanks all for the comments. And, Helen, your horse story is awesome. Wonder if one could accumulate other examples of something like that happening, and make a movie called The Horse Sobber.
    Bonny Bonobo alias Brat
    Funny you should say that Mark, because the locals call me the Horse Screamer. My horses can be miles away so when I'm looking for them, so I scream "HORSIES" in a very high, voice and even if they're over a kilometre away they soon come galloping (because I always feed them). Unfortunately the 'neigh'bours also have to listen to me!
    My latest forum article 'Australian Researchers Discover Potential Blue Green Algae Cause & Treatment of Motor Neuron Disease (MND)&(ALS)' Parkinsons's and Alzheimer's can be found at http://www.science20.com/forums/medicine
    Bonny Bonobo alias Brat
    Now you're probably thinking the horses were nuzzling me for food on the day I screamed and cried about the trees being pruned, but I'm pretty sure that wasn't the case. They've never done it before or since that day. I always give them food in buckets, so they had no reason to think I am carrying food on me. Carrying food on you through a herd of horses is a very bad idea, and not something I would do unless I wanted to get caught up in horse argy-bargy land. Pavlov's dogs salivated to the sound of a bell, so I suppose it is possible that because I screamed the horses thought I was going to feed them, galloped after me, found no food and then decided to nuzzle me. Now I'm feeling quite disappointed, because that's probably what happened, and there I was thinking they were trying to calm me down! I think I'll have to do another experiment. today, I'll scream to call the horses and then stand there with no food and see if they stand in a circle and nuzzle me again. If there's no more posts from me then I probably got trampled.
    My latest forum article 'Australian Researchers Discover Potential Blue Green Algae Cause & Treatment of Motor Neuron Disease (MND)&(ALS)' Parkinsons's and Alzheimer's can be found at http://www.science20.com/forums/medicine
    Mark Changizi
    :)
    Bonny Bonobo alias Brat
    I didn't get trampled because I haven't had a chance to do this experiment yet. Instead I received an emergency call to go to Family Court with my friend who has been fighting a custody battle with her ex-husband, My friend's witnesses were not allowed to take the stand because she had shown them a legal document that apparently should have only been seen by her lawyers, she didn't see the small print and her lawyers did not warn her. Custody was granted to her ex and she can now only see her 8 year old daughter for 2 hours every fortnight. She was given 2 minutes to tell her daughter and say goodbye. The child started sobbing and wailing and crying as the mother was made to leave with us. Then we all started crying and we still are crying.
    My latest forum article 'Australian Researchers Discover Potential Blue Green Algae Cause & Treatment of Motor Neuron Disease (MND)&(ALS)' Parkinsons's and Alzheimer's can be found at http://www.science20.com/forums/medicine
    Bonny Bonobo alias Brat
    Well, finally I have done my horse experiment, to see if my horses would nuzzle me when I screamed for them to come and then didn't give them any food.

    Firstly, I didn't get trampled, hence I am able to write this comment, secondly the horses were definitely upset and confused as to why there was no food, but they didn't nuzzle me, instead they did a very good impression of horses crying, but without the tears. Their faces were contorted, nostrils flared, their eyes were very sad and confused and they were looking at me with disbelief that I could be so cruel as to make them gallop over a kilometre just to see me.
     
    Then I got their buckets out of my car and nearly was trampled trying to spread them far enough apart to stop them from kicking eachother. I won't be doing that experiment again in a hurry.
    My latest forum article 'Australian Researchers Discover Potential Blue Green Algae Cause & Treatment of Motor Neuron Disease (MND)&(ALS)' Parkinsons's and Alzheimer's can be found at http://www.science20.com/forums/medicine
    Gerhard Adam
    I'm not sure your experiment is really complete.

    There's no question that animals can tell if someone (or another animal) is upset, just as you can tell if an animal is upset.  While we may not know the exact cause, or even what is being felt, the body language and actions are fairly clear-cut.

    I've noticed the same thing in my dog's responsiveness to other people.  They clearly look to me for an indication (not a command) as to whether a stranger is acceptable or not.  In one case, I had someone that was trying to come onto the property and I was definitely tense about it, and my dogs nearly took his arm off when he reached across the gate.  Otherwise complete strangers can come and go unmolested if I've invited them in.

    I want to be clear that this isn't about commands.  This is strictly my normal behavior around them that determines how receptive they are to others.

    To return to the point of horses, you know how easy it is to be held "hostage" for treats by horses, so it shouldn't be surprising that they may well respond to that from you.  In the same way that you might give a child a treat because they're sad, you're not likely to be manipulated into that simply by crocodile tears. 

    All in all, I think there's more experimenting that needs to be done.
    Mundus vult decipi
    logicman
    Gerhard: my dog whines loudly whenever a baby or infant cries in a movie.

    I often wonder if it's a response to the sound heard by the dog as a distress signal or if there are sound frequencies that distress him.  Maybe it's a bit of both?

    He is from a breed that was bred to attack foxes and wolves to safeguard its sheep and human 'family'.
    Gerhard Adam
    Yes, I've seen that kind of behavior.  I wonder if it might be even simpler, in that like wolves howl to each other to signal their presence, perhaps it's a similar response in the dog to such sounds.

    Unless the dog is distressed, it doesn't seem like it's triggering a defensive or protective response.
    Mundus vult decipi
    Bonny Bonobo alias Brat
    OK, I'm going to do some more experimenting with my horses today. I'm going to call them and then feed them, then when I've taken their buckets away, I'm going to think of the injustice that my friend is experiencing after losing a custody battle. I will probably quite easily work myself up into a frenzy, scream, yell and hopefully cry and then run over the hill like a crazy foal.

    If my horses chase after me, stand in a circle and nuzzle me then I have triggered the 'look after the mad foal' response in them, if not then maybe I wasn't genuinely upset enough, or maybe the last time this happened it was simply conditioned, cupboard love.
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    Gerhard Adam
    ... or maybe the horses will just think ... "there she goes again" :)

    Can you imagine one of the older mares telling the others that if you respond to their crying you'll only spoil them
    Mundus vult decipi
    Bonny Bonobo alias Brat
    Ha ha. Well I've only done it once before, though horses do have very good memories.
    My latest forum article 'Australian Researchers Discover Potential Blue Green Algae Cause & Treatment of Motor Neuron Disease (MND)&(ALS)' Parkinsons's and Alzheimer's can be found at http://www.science20.com/forums/medicine
    Bonny Bonobo alias Brat
    Is anyone interested in what happened in the next phase of the horse experiment? I don't want to bore people.
    My latest forum article 'Australian Researchers Discover Potential Blue Green Algae Cause & Treatment of Motor Neuron Disease (MND)&(ALS)' Parkinsons's and Alzheimer's can be found at http://www.science20.com/forums/medicine
    Gerhard Adam
    It's not boring. 
    Mundus vult decipi
    Bonny Bonobo alias Brat
    OK, that's good. Sometimes I worry that I'm boring everyone by rabbiting on about things that interest me but are not very interesting to most people. Well, I fed the horses, put away the buckets and then worked myself into a frenzy thinking about the poor little girl who is now living with the father that she accused of sexually abusing her. A child who can no longer see her mother who she has lived with all of her life, because the court has decided that if there is no evidence of sexual abuse then the mother must have primed the child to make these false allegations, and therefore she must only have very little supervised contact with her, 2 hours every 2 weeks, otherwise she might start to believe that these false allegations of sexual abuse are true. Soon I was feeling furious, thinking of this child living with a father who she had only occasionally seen in her life, as he was often away working as an international film maker, and the parents have been seperated for 4 years. Finally, all I had to think of was the child wailing and crying as she was told she had 2 minutes to say goodbye to the mother that I know she adores, and i was crying. It was then easy to scream and run away over the hill away from the horses, crying my eyes out and obviously very emotional, at least to bonobos. The horses chased after me, stood in a circle and nuzzled me until I stopped crying, which took a while.
    My latest forum article 'Australian Researchers Discover Potential Blue Green Algae Cause & Treatment of Motor Neuron Disease (MND)&(ALS)' Parkinsons's and Alzheimer's can be found at http://www.science20.com/forums/medicine
    Hank
    OK, that's good. Sometimes I worry that I'm boring everyone by rabbiting on about things that interest me but are not very interesting to most people.
    It's an open community.  On the Internet.   If people did not write things because they were bored (or maybe even boring) the Internet would not even exist.
    Mark Changizi
    The horses may just want to hire you to teach them the best damned method-acting known to mankind.
    Bonny Bonobo alias Brat
    Actually the horses are pretty good at putting on hissy fits of their own, without any lessons from me, and I wasn't acting, I was just choosing my own time and place to let off steam by crying about the traumatic situation that my friends are currently experiencing. Like many scientists I setup the scenario for my experiment so I guess I wasn't as genuinely, spontaneously upset as I had been the first time the horses were triggered into this response to my crying, for whatever reason still to be determined. I once acted an epileptic schoolgirl teenager role in a local amateur dramatic production when I was a schoolgirl teenager and I nearly wrecked the whole production because I was embarassed about writhing around on the floor in my schoolgirls tunic in front of an audience of about 300 teenagers. I fell to the floor and groaned and writhed a little bit then 'my father' in the play said 'what shall I do to her?' and then the whole place collapsed in laughter, as far as I am aware I haven't done any acting since, though my horses may disagree.
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    Gerhard Adam
    I don't think there's any question that animals can pick up on our emotional states and react to them.  However, the main problem here is that these are domesticated animals which have developed a relationship whereby attitudes and emotions can be more readily understood.  Just as you can see when a horse is upset, they can see when you are.

    A horse certainly behaves differently with an experienced rider than an inexperienced one.  Similarly animals behave differently based on the confidence one has in dealing with them, so once again, it's not surprising that they should react to human emotional displays. 

    In some ways the question also depends on how the horses see you in the hierarchy of things.  If you've worked with them, it seems unlikely they would see you in the same way they'd see a foal.  I don't know how they'd react if the herd mare or stallion were upset.  Would they tend to gather around? 

    I can tell you that wild horses couldn't care less about your emotional disposition. 
    Mundus vult decipi
    Bonny Bonobo alias Brat
    One of them is a wild horse.
    My latest forum article 'Australian Researchers Discover Potential Blue Green Algae Cause & Treatment of Motor Neuron Disease (MND)&(ALS)' Parkinsons's and Alzheimer's can be found at http://www.science20.com/forums/medicine
    Aitch
    You are both fortunate then, .........You have a wild horse, he, a wild keeper

    I refrain from using 'owner' as I don't hold with the concept of owning a life

    Aitch
    Aitch
    I can tell you that wild horses couldn't care less about your emotional disposition.
    I can think of a fair few 'Tinkers' [pseudo-gypsies] who capture wild horses over here, who would have a good argument with you about that, Gerhard

    If you continually shout and holler abuse at them, they'll likely bite you...ha ha

    Aitch
    Gerhard Adam
    Actually my point was about wild horses, which aren't likely to give you the chance to shout and holler abuse.  In fact, they'll likely bite you regardless of how you behave, given the chance.

    Most likely, they would simply run if they aren't restrained.
    Mundus vult decipi
    Bonny Bonobo alias Brat
    Yes, you're right Gerhard. When I was a kid I was bitten on several occasions by wild horses when I walked up to them in the New Forest. However, this wild horse has never been broken in or worn a halter and doesn't belong to me, but he runs free with my horses. He has quite a nice disposition, probably because I'm the only person who's ever fed him regularly, so its probably cupboard love. My farrier often warns me to be careful of him because he thinks that one day he could turn on me.
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    Gerhard Adam
    I understand the warning, but in my view, it's no different than how one should behave with any "wild" animal.  It's simply important to remember that these animals don't share our notion of friendship for the same reasons we might have.

    In other words, I don't believe that animals "turn on us", but rather they behave in a manner that clearly indicates that we have become too presumptuous of our relationship with them.
    Mundus vult decipi
    Bonny Bonobo alias Brat
    Yes I agree and sometimes they just feel threatened.
    My latest forum article 'Australian Researchers Discover Potential Blue Green Algae Cause & Treatment of Motor Neuron Disease (MND)&(ALS)' Parkinsons's and Alzheimer's can be found at http://www.science20.com/forums/medicine
    Gerhard Adam
    Here's another half-baked idea:

    Suppose that crying is a means to temporarily immobilize us, so that we can't really do much physically.  After all, crying does temporarily "blind" us, so it would be difficult to engage in much physical activity that could be dangerous while our emotions are at an extreme point.

    Perhaps it is this act, which brings out the protective instinct in us when we see someone crying, in recognizing that they are physically vulnerable because of this.  This could also account for why it is important to control one's emotions when engaged in difficult or dangerous activities.
    Mundus vult decipi
    Mark Changizi
    Nice! An alternative kind of handicap hypothesis.
    It is not logical. If our emotions are dangerous for us, then the evolution should probably make our emotions less strong, instead of this. And still, it is obvious that humans is one of the few animals who cry tears, or at least that we cry much more than other animals. Other animals have emotions too; and we are intelligent, so it should be *easier* for us to control our behavior when our emotions are extreme.

    Gerhard Adam
    I'm not clear on why you think it would be easier to control emotions because of intelligence.  In fact, the opposite would be true, since it's much more likely that our emotions might overreact because of our ability to imagine.

    Simply speculating that tears might immobilize us temporarily (to allow us to "center" ourselves again), doesn't make our emotions dangerous.  However, most people would agree that responding emotionally to a physical situation is dangerous and runs the risk of taking excessive risk because we aren't thinking through the problem.  This is precisely the idea that is involved when someone is labeled "hot-headed".

    Emotions can be dangerous for us in some circumstances, but that wouldn't cause evolution to make them less strong, if they provided a greater advantage in allowing social cohesion.  So, in one sense, emotions may allow us to empathize with others, building stronger social groups and gaining assistance (even from strangers), while still being a liability if they go unchecked in the wrong circumstances.



    Mundus vult decipi
    Imagination is not the same as intelligence. Our intelligence allow us to make better decisions than other animals, and let us understand when a situation is not as dangerous as we first thought, Other animals behave much more on the ground of basic instincts and emotions.

    With your reasoning, humans should cry tears foremost when we are terrified about something. But we don't. Only afterward, when the danger is over and we are in chock, we humans easily cry.

    Gerhard Adam
    With your reasoning, humans should cry tears foremost when we are terrified about something. But we don't.
    Not true.  This is precisely why the biggest risk in being terrified is panic and hysteria.
    Mundus vult decipi
    (Correction: Exercise, of course.)

    When you are in panic, you don't cry either. Hysteria is not very well defined, but some reactions we call "hysterical" don't make you cry or want to cry, and other reactions of that kind do it.

    Okej, that was a very half baked questioning I made, I understand now. It is of course not a good idea to cry and not be able to see good, when in danger and you must make a choise, even if it is based on instincts and basic emotions.

    But no, I cannot see the point in crying tears, even afterwards. The danger is over, and it is really because of that you cry. If you ask a psychiatrist, he would say that crying is a way to release emotions, and that is the common experience we all have. It don't fit well with you reasoning, either.

    (I am from Sweden and not so very good in English spelling and grammar, byt I do my best ;-) I discuss om sites like this as an exorcise.)

    Gerhard Adam
    If you ask a psychiatrist, he would say that crying is a way to release emotions, and that is the common experience we all have.
    I understand, but that doesn't mean that crying doesn't have more than one purpose.  As has already been suggested, there are many times when it appears that crying can gain sympathy from others and help strength the social bond that exists between individuals because it seems to promote the "protective" response.

    This seems especially true since children are the most likely to cry with men being the least likely (depending on circumstances). 

    As has already been mentioned, crying can also be an indicator that the person is feeling strong emotions and let others see that their feelings are sincere.  After all, one of the biggest problems with intelligence is that we have the ability to deceive and be deceived.  So, crying can be a mechanism to show the depth of feeling.

    In this way, crying could satisfy all of these requirements as being a demonstration of strong emotions.  It can be immobilizing to prevent us from being reckless, but also helpful for bonding as a group.

    When I suggested that crying prevents us from acting irrationally by immobilizing us temporarily, I didn't mean to imply that it evolved for that reason.  It seems unlikely that would be a sufficient cause.  However, as a means of showing strong emotions, it would also act as a control in the event we attempted to act on such strong emotions when we were most vulnerable.

    Maybe it's even simpler than that.  Since we are clearly an intellectual creature that is capable of being rational, perhaps crying is little more than an alerting mechanism that let's others see that we aren't currently being rational?  In fact, it seems quite likely that most of us would feel quite uncomfortable letting someone make an important decision when they are crying.  Usually when people get crying (and their emotions) under control, is when we feel that they are back to being capable of rationality.
    Mundus vult decipi
    Good, and thanks for the clarification:

    You wrote: "When I suggested that crying prevents us from acting irrationally by immobilizing us temporarily, I didn't mean to imply that it evolved for that reason. It seems unlikely that would be a sufficient cause."

    What I understand, crying must basically be a way to show emotions. Other mammals cry, but we are among the few who cry tears, an no one of them seems to do it as much as we do. Someone in this thread wrote something like this: Because we are intelligent, we can "lie" and pretend to cry, and get attention and care we don't deserve. But it is not so easy to cry tears when we pretend - so tears should be a sign that the emotions are authentic. For me, this make perfectly sense. (I would add that it perhaps was our unique perspiration system who made this possible, but that piece is not necessary.)

    I agree when you say there can be other explanations too, but I believe this is the main reason.

    I have two thoughts about crying...
    1) it seems like they are healing in some way...they open the channel to allow us to 'flow' with the emotion as it flows through us. In a way it's like cleansing the stuck feelings so that we can move past them
    2) we are overwhelmed with emotion and the cork pops and out come the tears

    I originally was looking for ideas on why we believe in sadness...were we taught to believe in it? At what point do we shift from sadness to understanding the lessons and joy we experienced from what is ending and let go of the sadness?

    Aitch
    I find it both peculiar and interesting that we 'discuss'  or 'analyze' the action of crying, which is an emotive response
    Psychologists even go to trying to find causes or reasons, essentially using the head to resolve the 'problem' of not understanding 'crying'
    Here, for example is a list of 293 causes for crying [lacrimation/lachrymation]

    http://symptoms.wrongdiagnosis.com/cosymptoms/lacrimation-desc.htm

    Yet the term, 'emotive' was only introduced by William M. Reddy in his article, Against Constructionism: The Historical Ethnography of Emotions (1997) [Wikipedia]

    What is to understand? ......this is just scientific wrong-thinking, in my opinion

    In non-scientific terms, we have 5 senses related to our planet, namely, Air, Earth, Fire, Water, and Spirit

    Water has to be the farthest away from the thinking processes used to try to analyze the action of crying, yet closest to the belly, where our umbilical connection to our mother's emotive chemicals flowed from, and also to the spirit, those connective threads that make humanity an emotional family, despite our intellectual differences...... don't you agree?

    We breathe air, and are warmed by fire, so I don't connect them with tears


    Here's my offering to the 'debate/topic/analysis'

    Author: Anuj Ghimire, Nepal

    Poem: Tearful ending

    I look behind as the end is near
    Living without you that’s my fear
    As I think of our time together
    Though we are not; memories will last forever

    Over and over again a cold breeze runs over my head
    Fun and joy together, with your step forward they fade
    The letters of my life are blank once again
    The healed wounds of my heart feel some fain

    As in my dream your beautiful eyes show
    They tell me now its time to go
    I’m sorry that I could not make you cheerful
    You have won the game you’ve made me tearful
    >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

    How does that make you feel?

    Aitch
    Bonny Bonobo alias Brat
    How does that make you feel?
    It makes me feel sad but also confused about whether 'fain' is a typo? Should it have said 'pain'?
    Over and over again a cold breeze runs over my head
    Fun and joy together, with your step forward they fade
    The letters of my life are blank once again
    The healed wounds of my heart feel some fain
    Definition of fain at http://www.thefreedictionary.com/fain

    adv.

    1. Happily; gladly: "I would fain improve every opportunity to wonder and worship, as a sunflower welcomes the light" (Henry David Thoreau).

    2. Archaic Preferably; rather.

    adj. Archaic
    1. Ready; willing. 2. Pleased; happy.3. Obliged or required.






    My latest forum article 'Australian Researchers Discover Potential Blue Green Algae Cause & Treatment of Motor Neuron Disease (MND)&(ALS)' Parkinsons's and Alzheimer's can be found at http://www.science20.com/forums/medicine
    Aitch
    Hmm

    I have no answer, other than to say, you have reminded me I forgot to post a credit to the original site, where it was published...perhaps ask the author?

    http://www.voicesnet.org/displayonepoem.aspx?poemid=145160

    Aitch
    Bonny Bonobo alias Brat
    According to this Washington Post article a recent study finds that tears may send a sexual message in addition to an emotional one.
    “It's widely held that a woman's tears will turn a man to mush. And many think that sympathetic response is a sign of sensitivity, a psychological shift away from baser male impulses."

    "But new research suggests that much of the response may be involuntary and that men are unable to help themselves. The smell of a woman's tears, the study found, is associated with a dip in testosterone, the principal male hormone, and a general decline in sexual arousal”.
    My latest forum article 'Australian Researchers Discover Potential Blue Green Algae Cause & Treatment of Motor Neuron Disease (MND)&(ALS)' Parkinsons's and Alzheimer's can be found at http://www.science20.com/forums/medicine
    Why do we Cry?

    When we need strengh, we hold our breath. When we are startled, we stop breathing and assess the situation. Whether it is physical or mental strain, it is the same. We hold our breath when we need to pick up something heavy. That gives us strength.
    When someone is using karate they let out a yell. That serves two purposes. They are --"controling"--holding there breath back for strengh plus they are leting air out for speed.
    Our vocal chord close off so to stop the air from escaping. In order for us not suffocate, the chords viberate to let the air out That sounds like aaaahhhhhhhh. Just like crying!
    If you have seen someone with a severe stutter, you noticed they make faces, like a frown, something like someone who is crying. They are not trying to form the words. They are trying to help get air to come out. Same with someone who is crying.
    As far as tears, I believe when we cry it builds pressure in the sinuses. That will force tear ducts to release more tears than normal.

    A frown is to crying as a smile is to a laugh.