Why do women cry?

Some years ago I speculated that women crying is what evolutionary psychologists call an “honest signal”. That is, a hard-to-fake indication of mood. And that tears were a sign that a woman genuinely needed some kind of help.

Some time later the idea was published by somebody else.

However like a few of these insights from the new science of evolutionary psychology, they can be found in some form in philosophers writing before the development of modern psychology.

In a discussion on Kant’s philosophy, Tomasso Tuppino writes: “Tears communicate one’s state of impotence to others … Tears have a sign-value, a communicative skill. They represent a call for help addressed to others … Tears are shed mainly by women in order to call other people to their aid.”

I have implied recently at this blog that impotence and weakness (“powerlessness”) is attractive in women. And yet tears are not sexy. I suspect the main reaction men have to a crying woman is discomfort and a desire to make the tears stop. This makes sense because that is the natural response to what the woman is signalling.

A better example of the use of weakness to create attraction and a benevolent mood in a man is real or simulated childlikeness. The eyelash-batting and girlish pouting traditionally used by women to gently get their way seems to be in this class.

Some time back, I wrote a note on the way in which philosophers like Aquinas and Nietzsche also anticipated later concepts in evolutionary psychology:

“A note on Aquinas, evolutionary psychology and Nietzsche”

Tuppino’s writings on Kant and tears are found in this volume:

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2 responses to this post.

  1. Women cry for life is painful – no less so for men, but we are less emotive.

    Reply

  2. Posted by Julian O'Dea on May 22, 2016 at 2:51 am

    https://www.newscientist.com/article/dn19922-the-scent-of-a-womans-tears-wards-off-men/

    A woman crying seems to reduce testosterone levels in men.

    Reply

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