The gender-specific impact of emotional tears

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The purpose of crying has recently become a topic of interest, with evidence supporting its interpersonal functions. The assumption that tears not only express a need for help, but in reaction also foster willingness to help in an observer, has received preliminary empirical support. The current study replicated previous work using a within-subject design with 140 subjects (50% female) who were exposed to images depicting male and female individuals crying, with half of both displaying visible tears and the others not displaying tears. Novel is our comparison of willingness to help across all possible gender combinations of tear display and observer. Potential mediation by perceived helplessness, friendliness, and connectedness of the depicted person was tested in male and female participants separately. We replicated the strong effect of tears on willingness to help, and showed this effect to be less potent for male dyads than for female or mixed ones, which is new to the literature. Perceived helplessness mediated the link between crying and helping, whereas perceived connectedness seemed only relevant for female participants, and perceived friendliness was not significant. Possible origins and implications of a differential gender function of crying are discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)696-704
Number of pages9
JournalMotivation and Emotion
Issue number4
Early online date18-May-2019
Publication statusPublished - Aug-2019


  • Crying
  • Helplessness
  • Connectedness
  • Friendliness
  • Gender differences
  • MEN
  • MOOD
  • CRY

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