Why Do Humans Cry?


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All humans cry. It's part of our biology to cry when we're sad or in pain, or sometimes when we're laughing too much. As fas a scientists know, humans are the only species that actually cry, so why is that?

The human eye produces three types of tears. Basal tears protect the eyes from dust and particles and keep the eyes moist. Reflex tears flush the eye out when it becomes irritated. And emotional tears are in response to sadness, distress, or physical pain. 

Scientists say that emotional tears have a scientific purpose. Apparently, our emotional tears contain more manganese, a protein that effects our temperament, and more prolactin, a hormone. By ridding our body of these, it's thought that we're relieving tension from the body and trying to re-balance the body's stress levels, so crying makes us feel better.

There's also psychological reasons for crying. When we cry, it shows the world how we're feeling. Especially in babies, tears are a way of communicating what we're feeling without words. Usually, if you see a friend crying, you try to comfort them and be there for them. This also relieves the crier and typically makes them feel better. We also cry in result of other people's pain, like when we're watching a sad movie, or our favorite TV character dies. This is attributed to humans ability to put themselves in other people's shoes. We can imagine what the other person is feeling, and it elicits an emotional response in us.

There's still debate about whether animals can even feel emotions, let alone express them. There is evidence that they can however. Elephants tend to show signs of grieving when a family member or mate dies. And chimpanzees actually release tears, though some scientists say they are Reflex or Basal tears, and not emotional ones. The video below shows a mother elephant who seems to panic when her offspring becomes trapped in a hole. Humans help get the baby elephant out, and the reunion of mother and child seems to be joyus. Is this more proof that animals feel emotion? It sure seems that way, though we may never really be sure.


8 Comments

I do believe that animals feel emotions. My Father told me that he saw one time how they killed a ship, and is very sad. To kill the ship they have to bleed the sheep to Death. what they do is they make a cut around the neck area where the major arteries are, and basically watch the animal bleed to death. He says that the sheep cries, and tears come out of its the sheep's eyes. on other hand it is very interesting your post, i did not know that tears where classified into different categories.

That video was quite touching. I would like to add that of all animals in the animal kingdom, elephants do have one of the best brains capable for memorization. In regards to the question you posed, I don't necessarily feel that animals display or possess human emotion, rather I think they are displaying signs of stress and anxiety at the basic primal level. When an animal is extremely stressed or agitated, a human would tend to view it as emotions but in reality it is just the animal frustrated, confused, angry at the situation it had put itself in. You could argue that frustration, confusion and anger are emotions, but to make myself feel better about being a human and not a lowly animal I would have to disagree and say those are only basic animal states of mind, not emotional responses.

I could argue for this however too, but my argue would prove false purely based on the nature of what I am about to pull from. In the classic novel, "Where The Red Fern Grows," after the one dog dies, the other one dies from a "broken heart." This novel was fiction, so I have to say animals can not feel emotion. If animals were capable of emotions, wouldn't the tiger be upset after killing the gazelle. Wouldn't the snake be mournful for the killing of the rat? Would not the chimpanzee you previously mentioned be holding a funeral and inviting all of the friends of the ants they ate for dinner from the sickle tree?

Maybe I am inflating my own ego here, but I would like to think humans are the only ones in this crazy world who can really "feel" emotions. The elephant in the video could not have been sad. I believe it is like pulling out a tooth. I'm sure the elephant was in a great deal of pain and stress, but those can not be confused for human emotion.

I feel sad when my dog dies, but would my dog feel sad if I died? Well I'm sure he would be upset that he would no longer receive his favorite treat or special walks that I take him on once I have passed, but I don't believe he would lose a second of sleep over it.

I am not a very emotional person and it takes a great deal to make me cry. For some reason, real life situations have less of an effect to make me cry than if I were to be watching a movie. I wonder why that is. I am going to do some research on my personal time to see if I can find any studies related to my situation. As for animals, I do believe that animals have the ability to feel emotion. My grandmother and her dog were like two peas in a pod. Unfortunately,last year my grandmother became very ill and was confined to a hospital bed in her home. Throughout the weeks that my grandmother was sick, her dog did not leave the foot of the bed. It was as if he could feel her pain and was in pain himself. I think that more research needs to be conducted in order to learn more about animal emotion.

Ok let me start by saying I was the sap who teared up a bit from your video. I'd like to think that some of the smarter animals like elephants and dogs have emotions. It can be argued even in this touching video that it was all just protective instinct. This mother elephant could have been "upset" simply because her offspring was now susceptible to predators or starvation from not being able to pull itself out of the hole. Without human help it is likely that that baby elephant would not have been able to survive on her own after getting into that situation and the line of the mothers genes would not be continued through that offspring. I think that animals especially pets who are often regarded as "people too" cannot reciprocate the love that their owners have for them. What are the chances that your dog is actually happy to see you when you come home instead of anticipating your arrival to ensure that he or she still has someone to feed it at the end of the day.

I had no idea humans had three types of tears. I just assumed a tear was a tear, but it's interesting to see the effects and purpose each tear has.
Animal emotion is quite a complicated topic today with scientists. I feel that animals do have emotions, having my own dog and cat always so chattery when I come home and bouncing off the walls makes me believe so. I found this article to be quite helpful understanding animal emotions. Most critics are saying that animals do have emotions, but some skeptics still remain. I find it interesting that primates can produce tears but no other mammal can. Is it mostly psychological or physical attributes that deprive this experience/sensation from occurring?

I never really thought of the reasons why we cry. I would be very interested to know if there is some evolutional basis behind it. Much like the class when we talked about if evolution causes our fingers to wrinkle when submerged in water. I cannot really think of any benefit that we would receive from a survival standpoint. Perhaps it deals with empathy and compassion for others and allows us to connect more closely with other human beings. I usually do not cry very easily, however if I act as if I'm crying I can feel my eyes swell up and tears start to form. This is interesting because these are not true emotions that I am feeling. I just am acting like I am feeling emotions. I can understand moments when you feel as if you are going to cry when you do have intense emotions but not when you fake it. Could you possibly be tricking your body into believing you are sad? Also, I have always heard that it is healthy to cry and release all that emotion. Perhaps tears are a way of enhancing this experience. Your body's way of expelling something that could represent the negative emotions you feel. Very interesting post!

I have always wondered if animals feel emotions, and if my dog gets sad when I leave. I do think that animals can feel emotion, even if it isn't to the same extent that humans could. I see pictures all over the internet of a dog laying at an owner's grave. This has to be from some kind of emotional response from the dog...even if it is "attachment", I would still consider attachment an emotion. Furthermore, I think that animals have the ability to gauge human emotion and react to it. I find that especially in dogs. Dogs are able to sense happiness or sadness or urgency from their owner and react accordingly, like trying to cheer up the owner, or just quietly laying next to them.

I certainly think animals have emotion - especially chimps. Chimpanzees only differ from humans by 1% of DNA - less than they differ from gorillas. This is an amazing number. If we're only different by 1%, chimpanzees most likely cry emotionally like we do. Dr. Goodall discovered through chimps facial reactions that they experience "joy, sadness, fear and despair... an almost human like enjoyment of physical contact, laughter and community."
http://www.janegoodall.ca/about-chimp-so-like-us.php

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