Psychologists find reason behind ‘tears of joy’

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Many people are quite taken aback when they burst into tears when they are happy as it appears to be illogical.

A group of psychologists have attributed this to the body trying to store an ‘emotional equilibrium’.

They state that people are able to recover better by their response to a positive emotion with a negative one.

The lead author of the report, Oriana Aragon, said these feelings appear to occur when people become overwhelmed with strong positive emotions. She said that those who do this appear to recover better from the strong emotions.

The Yale University psychologists examined the emotional responses of participants to different events, including ‘cute’ babies and happy reunions.

They discovered that individuals who were able to express negative reactions to positive news were able to moderate these intension emotions fairly quickly. They also discovered that those who are more likely to cry when their child graduates, are also more likely to want to pinch a baby’s cheeks.

Other examples they provided, where individuals respond to a positive experience with negative emotions, included when concert attendees scream in horror at the sight of their idol and when winners of the lottery start to cry.

The authors used winning the lottery as an example. The stated that when an individual wins the lottery, they may consider the event as a good thing, become overwhelmed by happiness, smile and then burst into tears. The consideration that winning is a good thing would allow for verbal expression and intense happiness to be described as positive emotions, but there is also crying which normally is an expression of sadness. The negative expression may not be related to the situation or the positive emotions, but may merely be a facial movement, or it could reflect real negative emotions.

According to Miss Aragon, this research offers an explanation to a common response which is not fully understood by most people.

She said the understanding of these emotions is important in the understanding of how people control and express their emotions, which is related their relationships with others, how they work together with others and physical and mental health.

The team also claim that they have found evidence of the reverse, where negative feelings could provoke positive expressions.

An example of this is that when people are nervous or are faced with frightening or difficult situations, they often start laughing. They referred to previous studies where it was found that some people smile during times of intense sadness.

Image Credit: Sage Ross

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