Lifewatch: Why we cry

Reported by Claire Hosmann - bio|email
Posted by Debra Worley - email

(WECT) - Crying is an emotional response to something negative or positive in your life, but one scientist believes tears can act as a handicap to show you've lowered your defenses.

In the journal Evolutionary Psychology, biologist Oren Hasson suggest blurring vision caused by tears can show a side of submission, a cry for help.

But, NOVA marriage and family therapist professor Dr. Debra Ann Nixon is skeptical about Hasson's theory.

"I've seen people in tears still defend themselves, so I'm not so certain about the novelty," said Nixon.

Hasson also points out how crying signals vulnerability, a strategy that could bring people closer to you.

"Even in court situations, or even in therapy, which is my field, when people cry, it tends to make everybody feel sad for them, more sensitive, more open, more empathetic to their situations," said Nixon.

Nixon says while the debate over whether crying is an evolved or learned behavior continues, she believes it is cultural and individual.

"In adults, it's a sign of weakness, but that's cultural," said Nixon.  "In some cultures, it is admirable to be emotional."

Crying is a behavior researchers suggest help carry stressful chemicals away from the body.  It is a simple, yet complex response scientists are still trying to figure out.

Scientists also say that crying relieves stress, reduces hormone and chemicals levels, and helps us return to a calm state.

To read Dr. Hasson's theory about why we cry, click here.