The Science of Crying: Why Are Adults Silent Criers?

Everyone does it, but why do we cry?

Come on fellas, it’s okay to cry. While theatrical waterworks probably are best avoided at, say, the end of a Pixar movie, there’s little wrong with unveiling your deep emotions at harrowing or tremendously joyful moments. But what does science say about our tears? How does our crying change over the course of our lives?

There hasn’t been a great amount of research conducted into crying, but an American study made the interesting finding that the older humans get, the more likely they are to cry in silence.

Tearless wailing by babies

The research showed that for the first few months of our lives, when we’re cute little babies, we typically don’t shed tears. Instead, we wail and scream with dry eyes at whatever has upset us – a loud noise, a full nappy, or the lopsided, unattractive face of an overly affectionate relative. Typically it is not until we reach three or four months old that tears become a component of this melodramatic showcase of displeasure. As children, crying is largely about attracting attention, perhaps to earn sympathy or get our own way.

Silent tears by adults

The researchers found that as we become adults, we are more likely to be unobtrusive in our displays of sadness, often secreting tears in silence – the very opposite of dry-eyed banshee babies.

“This massive shift from tearless wailing to silent tears parallels a change in crying from a predominantly auditory to a mainly visual signal (tears),” the researchers wrote.

Why are adults silent criers?

While they were not certain why these changes in crying took place, one particularly interesting theory they posited was that the move away from an auditory to a visual signal of crying may have been an evolutionary change to help protect us from predators, whether they be animals or fellow humans. This makes sense, as out in the wilderness loud blubbering undoubtedly could draw the focus of a rampaging rhino or a hungry, hungry hippo. Best to let those tears dribble in silence and live to see another day, as opposed to the insides of a mammoth beast. If humans did evolve in this way to become stealthier, sadness-wise, our predators would not have shown wet signs of upset. You see, we’re the only living creatures that release tears (apart from crocodiles, maybe).

Rarity of tears creates sympathy

As we learned from the historical research paper ‘The Boy Who Cried Wolf’, repetitive behaviour gets on the nerves of humans. The study identified that the rarity of adult tears meant that they were far more likely to garner sympathy than those of children who, let’s face it, really overdo it with all the crying.

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Sourced from Techly
12 May 2016

Sourced from

12 May 2016

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