The Power of Tears

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Crying can help ease your nerves. It could also help ease someone else’s.

A team of neurobiologists discovered that human tears included a substance that could reduce aggression from a third party, the Guardian reported. The study is the latest to contradict Charles Darwin’s premise that crying was “purposeless.”

Prior research has shown that female tears reduced male testosterone and that covering oneself in tears was a common practice by mole rats facing predators.

This study provides more insight into the power of emotional human tears. In the experiment, a group of men were asked to sniff samples of saline water and of tears shed by women crying at sad movies. The men’s aggressiveness was gauged as they played a video game with unfair results.

The outcome stunned the researchers; sniffing women’s tears led to a 43.7 percent decrease in retribution compared with saline tears. Brain scanners confirmed the observation, showing that brain parts handling aggressive behavior were less active, suggesting the action of a chemical carried by the tears.

Nonetheless, the effect of this chemical is limited. For example, tears do not seem to have much of an impact in instances of domestic violence.

Scientists believe the composition of human tears has evolved to protect babies. Because they lack the communication abilities of children and adults, babies are more prone to aggression. The substance in their tears may be a way of saying, “Do not hurt me.”

If identified, the substance could help save the lives of adults, too. Such a discovery could lead to manufacturing the substance as a medicine to tame aggressive behavior.

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