MadSci Network: Evolution

Re: Is there an evolutionary advantage to crying when we are very sad/happy?

Date: Sun Oct 17 19:18:46 1999
Posted By: Andrew D. Brabban, Faculty, Biology, The Evergreen State College
Area of science: Evolution
ID: 938117284.Ev

I'm afraid Terry I don't think I'll be able to give you anymore of a 
satisfactory answer than you have already received, as we are dealing with 
the evolution of an apparent abstract trait (like looking at a murder from 
the 1900's). We shed tears under two distinct situations; 1) where we are 
under emotional stress, 2) where we have some form of injury or irritation 
to the eye. The 2nd is easiest to answer first. In the event of injury or 
contact with the eye of a foreign object (substance) tears are released. 
These tears aid in the washing away of the foreign substance (cleaning the 
eye), but also contain lysozyme an enzyme which kills bacteria so 
preventing post injury infection. But this is not the focus of your 
question. The other reason for tears is a secondary effect to emotional 
stress. What evolutionary advantage would that provide well, a person who 
releases their stress is often able to deal with trauma greater than one 
who bottle up their feeling. Maybe in an evolutionary way those ancestors 
who released their feeling had a greater chance of finding a mate. As my 
degree is not in psychology I would bow to an argument that said my idea 
was incorrect from such as expert but feel it may have such reasoning.

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