Wednesday, January 19, 2011
From the Washington Post:
It's widely held that a woman's tears will turn a man to mush. And many think that sympathetic response is a sign of sensitivity, a psychological shift away from baser male impulses.
But new research suggests that much of the response may be involuntary and that men are unable to help themselves. The smell of a woman's tears, the study found, is associated with a dip in testosterone, the principal male hormone, and a general decline in sexual arousal.
"We've identified that there is a chemosignal in human tears," said Noam Sobel, a neuroscientist at the Weizmann Institute of Science near Tel Aviv. Sobel headed the study, which involved exposing men to tears collected in vials. It was published online Thursday by the journal Science.
Historically, tears have been of more interest to poets than scientists.
"Emotional tears" are considered by many biologists to be uniquely human. They're known to have a different chemical composition than tears shed when the eye is simply irritated. The few studies of tears' psychological effects suggest they have a help-soliciting function.
Taken together, the results [of the study] "jointly suggest that women's emotional tears contain a chemosignal that reduces sexual arousal in men," the researchers concluded. "We have . . . identified an emotionally relevant function for tears."
Read more here.