Original article:

Emotional tears facilitate the recognition of sadness and the perceived need for social support

Evolutionary Psychology 11(1): 148-158 Martijn J. H. Balsters, Tilburg Center for Cognition and Communication, Tilburg University, m.j.h.balsters@uvt.nlEmiel J. Krahmer, Tilburg Center for Cognition and Communication, Tilburg UniversityMarc G. J. Swerts, Tilburg Center for Cognition and Communication, Tilburg UniversityAd J. J. M. Vingerhoets, Department of Medical and Clinical Psychology, Tilburg University

Abstract

The tearing effect refers to the relevance of tears as an important visual cue adding meaning to human facial expression. However, little is known about how people process these visual cues and their mediating role in terms of emotion perception and person judgment. We therefore conducted two experiments in which we measured the influence of tears on the identification of sadness and the perceived need for social support at an early perceptional level. In two experiments (1 and 2), participants were exposed to sad and neutral faces. In both experiments, the face stimuli were presented for 50 milliseconds. In experiment 1, tears were digitally added to sad faces in one condition. Participants demonstrated a significant faster recognition of sad faces with tears compared to those without tears. In experiment 2, tears were added to neutral faces as well. Participants had to indicate to what extent the displayed individuals were in need of social support. Study participants reported a greater perceived need for social support to both sad and neutral faces with tears than to those without tears. This study thus demonstrated that emotional tears serve as important visual cues at an early (pre-attentive) level.

Keywords

tears, crying, emotion, sadness, support

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Evolutionary Psychology - An open access peer-reviewed journal - ISSN 1474-7049 © Ian Pitchford and Robert M. Young; individual articles © the author(s)
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