Tears and Mood: Intra-Individual Effects of Emotional Crying



Emotional crying, Tears, Sobbing, Mood, Evolved Functions


Emotional crying can be defined as shedding tears from the eye, which typically occurs during intensive emotional reactions, mostly negative, but also positive ones. Its effects can be divided into intra-individual, that pertain to the effects of crying on the individual him/herself, and inter-individual, that pertain to the effects that crying exerts on the observers. The current paper offers an overview of the relevant research and theoretical contributions pertinent to intra-individual effects of tears that mostly involve mood changes following crying. Special attention is devoted to methodological aspects of the studies and several alternative explanations of described results are offered. Potential mechanisms mediating between crying and mood are described, together with individual differences in these effects. The strongest evidence regarding the effects of crying on mood pertains to mood changes that are the consequence of other individuals' positive responses to one's tears. Empirical support for the direct effects of crying on mood is inconsistent. Since the understanding of the intra-individual effects of crying requires the understanding of its inter-individual effects, the paper also deals with evolved communication functions of crying. The key argument of the current contribution is that the potential direct intra-individual effects of crying that increase individual well-being are closely related to the inter-individual functions of tears. Only through the understanding of the evolved functions of tears it is possible to understand the processes through which crying impacts individual’s well-being. In line with that, an attempt of theoretical integration of inter- and intra-individual functions has been made.