In rodents, scientists previously discovered an inhibitory effect of female tears on aggression in males. So-called chemical signaling, where molecules released by the body are picked up by another person (unconsciously) and influence behavior, has not been studied much in humans.
Test subjects were sometimes given tears, and other times a saline solution under the nose, while they played a virtual game in which they were encouraged to be aggressive. Exposure to women's tears, collected while watching sad movies, reduced aggression by more than 40 percent, the researchers wrote. in PLoS Biology.
Repeat and complete
“An important increase in our knowledge of tears,” answers clinical psychology professor emeritus Ad Fingerhots, who was not involved in the new study. “Until now, this research has mainly focused on the reactions of people watching or listening to someone crying. Interestingly, this study suggests the effect of crying via olfactory receptors.
The retired psychologist, who conducted research into the functions of crying, is even considering taking up his position again to repeat and complete the research. For example, he would be curious to know the results with “neutral” tears, or tears of happiness versus tears of sadness, rather than the saline solution used in the original study. He is also interested in what happens when people are at a greater distance from tears, as is often the case in practice.
The choice to study the effect of women's tears on men does not surprise Fingerhots, “because there is a lot of aggression from men towards women.” However, he suggests more research should be done on the effect of children's and men's tears on men and women.
It is worth noting that Vingerhoets once replicated an earlier publication by the same research group to see if he would find the same results. In this study of the effect of women's tears on men's sexual arousal, Vingerhoets and colleagues did not find the same association, suggesting that the original study was just a coincidence. So does this danger exist again? This cannot be ruled out, says Vingerhoets, although he believes the results of the new study in the field of tears and aggression are “much more consistent with theories about the functions of crying.”
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