Home  |  Blog  |  The Science Behind Why We Cry
Have you ever thought about why humans cry or weep? Physiologically, it’s been well established that the process of lacrimation, tears produced through tiny, almond shaped glands located above the eye, help clear the eyes of debris and other irritants, as well as keep eyes moist and lubricated. Yet the human species is the only one to cry because of emotions. Emotional tears, also known as psychic tears, are a part of the human condition. We cry not just because we’re sad. We cry when we’re full of joy, when we’re relieved, when we’re angry, or when we’re surprised.

Although it’s not yet well understood why we emotionally cry, there has been some research conducted on this topic. Here are some of the findings.

Women cry more often than men. The reason behind this is probably due to hormonal levels.  Testosterone, more common in men, would inhibit crying, while prolactin, more common in women, could help promote crying. But these findings are not just based on nature. A 2011 study showed depending on the culture, crying happened at higher rates than women, such as in Chile, or just slightly higher rates, such as in Nepal.

Emotional tears help humans communicate and socially bond with each other. Think of a baby who hasn’t learned to speak yet. Those tears and cries help to let the infant’s parents know that she needs some help. This doesn’t stop after childhood. Another study showed that tears made people’s faces looked sadder. Yet another study showed that people were more willing to give assistance to those

Emotional tears have a different chemical composition. Emotional tears, also known as psychic tears, has higher concentrations of protein-based hormones, including prolactin, as well as the neurotransmitter leucine enkephalin–a painkiller produced when one experiences stress. Comparatively, the tears we make when we are chopping onions are less viscous or sticky. So emotional tears will stay on a person’s face longer, meaning that they would be more visible to people.

People who don’t cry may be less social connected. A German psychology researcher intimately interviewed 120 people and found that those who didn’t cry withdrew more, felt less connected, and felt more feelings of anger, disgust, and rage. But there needs to be more research conducted to further explore the differences between criers and non-criers.

Although the science of why we cry is still being researched, emotional crying is a part of our human experience and most likely helps us bond and give each other emotional support. And no matter what eye condition you’re dealing with, taking care of your eyesight is of utmost importance.