New studies are showing that there is a more functional role for crying than was previously known: the pheromone-like scent released from a woman’s tears lower a man’s testosterone levels.
The studies confirmed that after smelling a woman’s tears, specifically tears expelled as a result of an emotional movie, men’s testosterone levels, and sexual arousal levels decreased significantly. They did not see such a steep drop when men smelled saltwater or even tears expelled for non-emotional reasons.
There are two main theories about why this is evolutionarily plausible. The first is that a woman’s emotion-based tears exist to alert a man that she requires comforting. By lowering his sexual arousal, she effectively coaxes him to tend more to her emotional needs than her sexual ones.
The second theory postulates that these tears exist to lessen the aggressiveness of a male. Lowering testosterone levels effectively lowers a man’s level of aggression, which has obvious evolutionary benefits, not the least of which is preventing him from physically abusing the woman.
Most importantly, both theories agree that our traditional view of crying, as a personal emotional outlet which does not affect others, is not quite correct. Emotional tears contain many chemicals, including electrolytes and proteins, which can work like pheromones. It has been shown in the past that humans do receive social signals via olfactory chemicals for other processes. These chemicals are not all present in non-emotional tears, such as tears brought on by chopping an onion. These chemicals do affect others, males specifically, and serve to give women an evolutionary advantage against their often stronger male counterparts.
While the research on this topic is still in the early stages, scientists are intrigued, and plan to delve further into the topic: how are women and children affected by a woman’s emotional tears? Do unemotional tears have any effect whatsoever? Researchers will examine these questions in future studies.