Tears for more than fears


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New studies show that tears derived from emotions and tears derived from emotions have different chemical compositions. Scientists have now tied those results to a new study that centers on men losing arousal due to women's tears.

Tears often get a bad reputation for being associated with the strong emotion of sadness or sensitivity. Men can be scrutinized for shedding a tear or two during a movie while women can openly weep during blockbusters. Double standard or not, it seems that tears in general have become taboo for the reason that tears of joy are less common. Keep in mind that tears derived from emotions are not the only cause of tears; when eyes are irritated they secrete tears as well. Tears are produced from your lacrimal glands and generally drain away through two structures called the lacrimal punctua. You tear up more often than you might think but thanks to the lacrimal punctua, you rarely notice. However, when your lacrimal glands begin producing tears too quickly and your lacrimal punctua cannot keep up, that's when the term "crying" comes in.

tear.jpg

According to the American Journal of Ophthalmology, "In 1981 William Frey and his colleagues produced a very interesting study that compared the contents of "irritant tears" to those of "emotional tears." They had subjects cut onions in order to produce irritant tears, and then they had those same subjects watch sad movies. When they chemically analyzed the tears, they found that irritant tears are chemically quite different from emotional tears." Specifically, Frey and his colleagues found that emotional tears contained 24% higher protein concentrations than irritant tears. Among those proteins is the adrenocorticotropic hormone, mercifully abbreviated ACTH. This protein is produced in high concentrations when the body is stressed, and it stimulates the body's adrenal glands to produce a series of hormones that regulate the body's response to stress.

 

Basically, tears are a stress reliever. A long cry can produce a good physiological response for you.

 

Now to these results were tied into a new study done by Shani Gelstein and Yaara Yeshurun (along with five other colleagues).  They studied how men respond to women's tears. They trickled saline down the cheeks of two donor women. This saline served as a control sample. It had nothing to do with actual tears, but it should contain any chemicals that tears would "pick up" as they traveled down the women's cheeks. They also had the two women watch sad movies and collected their tears of sadness. They then tested the responses of 24 men to the saline and the tears.3

The results were interesting. First, the men could not smell any difference between the tears and the saline. As a result, the effects noticed in the rest of the study were not the result of a perceived odor. Second, the researchers had the men sniff the saline and the tears and rate them according to intensity, pleasantness, and familiarity. There was no difference.

Here's the interesting part: They then showed the men pictures of women and had them rate the women according to how sad each woman was and how sexually attractive each woman was. While the smell of tears had no effect on how the men rated the sadness of the women, it made the men view the women as slightly less sexually attractive.

Even though the effect that smelling tears had on sexual attraction was very slight, when the experimenters directly measured physiological conditions associated with arousal, the results were more pronounced. For example, the researchers measured testosterone levels in the men after sniffing tears and saline. The testosterone levels were significantly reduced after sniffing tears.

The researchers also measured how well the men's skin conducted electricity, which is recognized as one measure of psychological or physiological arousal. They found that during the actual sniffing process, the tears produced an increase in the skin's conductance, but afterward, the tears produced a long-term decrease. This result is consistent with the idea that detecting emotional tears triggers a response by the body (hence the quick, initial increase in skin conductance), but that response is to reduce arousal (hence the long-term decrease).

 

Isn't that awesome? It's so interesting. With these results, I am left wondering if there a reason why this is. Do women's tears have that affect on men as means to silently say, "Not now," (in responsive to an inquiry about sex) ?

Dr. Frey, director of the Alzheimer's Research Center at Regions Hospital in St. Paul, said that more must be understood, including why sexual dampening would occur. Evolution may favor less sexual assertiveness toward a crying mate, he said, but if a woman's tears are brought on by an attacker, "is a husband with less testosterone going to be more or less aggressive in defending his family?"

While there is still more research to be gathered, the information we have now is interesting none the less.



1 Comment

It was so interesting reading your article! I got to wonder what happens to women if they see men crying. Would the same thing happen too? According to the research "of 500,000 adults, men had the same amount of emotional awareness, but they just processed it differently" which means that they still feel the emotion arousal but express it different ways.Until the age of 12, boys and girls cry about the same time. After that, girls cry 3-4times more than boys do. I think it is because of society's setting that assumption one's tear as the indication of weakness. I agree with you that crying can be the good physiological response and a way to let one's stress out.
(sources: http://ricoshae.hubpages.com/hub/Male-Tears-Vs-Female-Tears)

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