I Cry, Therefore I Am
By Michael Trimble | NYTimes.com
In 2008, at a zoo in Münster, Germany, a gorilla named Gana gave birth to a male infant, who died after three months. Photographs of Gana, looking stricken and inconsolable, were ubiquitous. “Heartbroken gorilla cradles her dead baby,” Britain’s Daily Mail declared. Crowds thronged the zoo to see the grieving mother.
Sad as the scene was, the humans, not Gana, were the only ones crying. The notion that animals can weep — apologies to Dumbo, Bambi and Wilbur — has no scientific basis. Years of observations by the primatologists Dian Fossey, who observed gorillas, and Jane Goodall, who worked with chimpanzees, could not prove that animals cry tears from emotion.
In his book “The Emotional Lives of Animals,” the only tears the biologist Marc Bekoff were certain of were his own. Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson and Susan McCarthy, the authors of “When Elephants Weep,” admit that “most elephant watchers have never seen them weep.”
It’s true that many mammals shed tears, especially in response to pain. Tears protect the eye by keeping it moist, and they contain antimicrobial proteins. But crying as an embodiment of empathy is, I maintain, unique to humans and has played an essential role in human evolution and the development of human cultures.
Within two days an infant can imitate sad and happy faces. If a newborn mammal does not cry out (typically, in the first few weeks of life, without tears) it is unlikely to get the attention it needs to survive. Around three to four months, the relationship between the human infant and its environment takes on a more organized communicative role, and tearful crying begins to serve interpersonal purposes: the search for comfort and pacification. As we get older, crying becomes a tool of our social repertory: grief and joy, shame and pride, fear and manipulation.
Tears are as universal (but less culturally contingent) as laughter, and tragedy is more complex than joy — an insight Tolstoy and many others have offered. But although we all cry, we do so in different ways.
Women cry more frequently and intensely than men, especially when exposed to emotional events. These differences seem to emerge around puberty, which may be related to hormonal changes but also to the influence of gender stereotypes.
Like crying, depression is, around the world, more prevalent in women than in men. One explanation might be that women, who despite decades of social advances still suffer from economic inequality, discrimination and even violence, might have more to cry about.
Men not only cry for shorter periods than women, but they also are less inclined to explain their tears, usually shed them more quietly, and tend more frequently to apologize when they cry openly. Men, like women, report crying at the death of a loved one and in response to a moving religious experience. They are more likely than women to cry when their core identities — as providers and protectors, as fathers and fighters — are questioned.
“It is no little thing to make mine eyes to sweat compassion,” said Shakespeare’s Coriolanus. And yet the Greek epics are filled with tearful heroes like Odysseus, Agamemnon and Achilles. In recent decades, Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush have normalized the sight of the weepy chief executive. Twice in the last week — at a campaign speech in Iowa on Monday, and addressing his campaign staff in Chicago after his re-election victory — President Obama choked up. Babe Ruth cried when he learned he had cancer, and Floyd Patterson after losing to Muhammad Ali.
Women and men alike are most likely to cry at home, in the early evening and while alone or in the company of a female friend. At the movies, we cry more if the friend sitting next to us does.
People who score on personality tests as more empathetic and neurotic cry more than those who are more rigid, controlling or obsessive. Frequency of crying varies widely: some tear up at any novel or movie, others only a handful of times in their lives. Crying in response to discord, stress and conflict in the home, or after emotional trauma, lasts much longer than tears induced by run-of-the-mill sadness — which in turn last longer than tears of delight and joy.
Read the full article at: nytimes.com
Study: Empathy and Logic are Mutually Exclusive
Compassion Meditation May Boost Neural Basis of Empathy
Chronic pain is determined by emotions, scientists believe
Will appealing to human emotions "save the environment"?
Believing in "Bad Vibes": The science of emotional residues
Scientists Finally Conclude Nonhuman Animals Are Conscious Beings
Latest News from our Front Page
The Josh Duggar Incident Reveals The Tactics And Hypocrisy of SJWs
Last week, In Touch Weekly broke the news that Josh Duggar, eldest son of Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar from TLCâ€™s 19 Kids and Counting, had molested five under-aged girls in 2002 and 2003. Josh, who was 14 at the time, was accused of fondling his victims, touching their breasts and genitals while they slept.
A police report was released shortly ...
15 More Men of South Asian Descent Charged With Child Sex Offences
Police in Keighley, West Yorkshire have charged 14 men and a 16-year-old boy with sex offences including the rape of a girl under the age of 16. The offences relate primarily to one female victim, with one allegation involving a second who was also under 16 at the time.
The offences are alleged to have occurred between 2011 and 2012. In ...
Anti-Semitic fliers left on Chevy Chase driveways
Five streets in Chevy Chase, Md., were papered with anti-Semitic fliers on Wednesday morning.
Montgomery County police are looking for the person or people who left the hate-filled leaflets on almost every driveway on the streets.
â€śThis is very disturbing. My community is definitely disturbed,â€ť said Jean Sperling, the village manager of Martinâ€™s Additions, the community where the fliers were found. Sperling ...
German court says ex-SS officer unfit for trial
Prosecutors in the northern German city of Hamburg have dropped their probe into a 93-year-old former Nazi SS officer. Gerhard Sommer, who suffers from dementia, allegedly took part in a World War II massacre in Italy.
Gerhard Sommer, a former company commander of a mechanized infantry division, had been accused of participating in the mass murder of 560 civilians by Nazi ...
The Age of Disinformation
I have been a professional meteorologist for 36 years. Since my debut on television in 1979, I have been an eyewitness to the many changes in technology, society, and how we communicate. I am one who embraces change, and celebrates the higher quality of life we enjoy now thanks to this progress.
But, at the same time, I realize the instant ...
|More News » |