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Tears tell men women aren't interested tonight

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January 10, 2011

New research suggests that women's tears may be a chemo-signal that discourage sexual arou...

New research suggests that women's tears may be a chemo-signal that discourage sexual arousal in men (Image: OUCHcharley via Flickr)

It is well-documented that our bodies give off coded chemical signals via sweat, excretions and pheromones that convey messages to other members of our species. Yet the significance of odorless human tears has continued to draw a blank since Charles Darwin first suggested that emotional displays were originally motivated by functional purposes. One hundred and fifty years later, new research from scientists at the Weizmann Institute’s Neurobiology Department suggests that in fact, tears may be a chemo-signal, as a chemical in women's tears seems to discourage sexual arousal in men.

The results were obtained through a series of probing experiments; the first sought to ascertain whether men could differentiate between the smell of saline and the smell of tears from women who had been watching sad movies, which they were unable to do. Next, male volunteers sniffed a pad soaked either in tears or in control saline solution, whilst judging the expression of women on a series of computer images. The experiment was repeated the following day, with either the tears or the control, and the tests were double-blinded, meaning neither the volunteers nor the researchers knew what was on the pads. Sniffing the tears did not affect the men's ability to assess sadness or empathy, but unexpectedly the results showed a significant lowering of sexual attraction attributed to women's faces after sniffing tears.

Intrigued by the results, researchers pursued the experiment by surveying male volunteers watching emotional movies after sniffing tears or saline. Self-ratings throughout the films showed again that emotional response and empathy was not affected by sniffing tears, but again that sexual arousal was lower. This response was backed up physiologically with a significant drop in testosterone, a hormone related to sexual arousal. This experiment was repeated using a Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) machine, allowing researchers to measure brain activity. This also showed that activity in areas of the brain associated with sexual arousal was reduced.

“This study raises many interesting questions," said Professor Noam Sobel. "What is the chemical involved? Do different kinds of emotional situations send different tear-encoded signals? Are women’s tears different from, say, men's tears? Children’s tears? This study reinforces the idea that human chemical signals – even ones we’re not conscious of – affect the behavior of others.”

As rodent tears are also known to contain such chemical signals, Sobel added, "The uniquely human behavior of emotional tearing may not be so uniquely human after all.”

The study by Shani Gelstein, Yaara Yeshurun, Liron Rozenkrantz, Sagit Shushan, Idan Frumin, Yehudah Roth at the lab of Professor Noam Sobel was published online in Science Express, and publicized via The Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot, Israel.

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6 Comments

How does this research explain the classic "sympathy shag" or the "making up after a big fight" - both of which usually involve a huge amount of tears?

DaddyHoggy
11th January, 2011 @ 04:51 am PST

Not true...

I have had several hot and heavy encounters after a woman has teared up. A woman after a good cry, if the man handles it properly, is more emotionally refreshed and has stronger feelings of intimacy having shared her emotions so openly. And, if the man is in tune with his woman he will feel her deeper feelings. It is quite common that after a girl cries with her man that she thanks him and kisses him for being there for her. If he truly is. And, once she kisses him the sparks are ignited. This has happened several times.

The scientists doing this study obviously have little experience with the opposite sex. This is the kind of study that tells more about the scientist than it does about the subject. Oops.

William Tewelow
11th January, 2011 @ 05:21 am PST

What about make-up sex?

corylylechase
11th January, 2011 @ 06:39 am PST

I would question these findings. I agree with the previous three posters. Tears are often a powerful way for a woman to get a man to pay closer attention to her, which brings intimacy and often, sex.

It is relatively demonstrable, in fact, that tears may have exactly the opposite effect than that represented in this article.

Dave Andrews
11th January, 2011 @ 08:09 am PST

Or maybe the woman is quite fearful of her spouse due to earlier experiences and the post-fight intercourse is an attempt to avoid some kind of retaliation.

Statisticaly the home is the most dangerous place to be for a woman and it is seldom the children that she has to be afraid of.

So. Maybe she just wants a hug and a kiss and to hear you say that you still love her even though there was a fight a while ago. Unfortunately for some men hugs&kisses = foreplay and when that train has left the station there will only be more tears if you try to stop it.

Conny Söre
12th January, 2011 @ 01:45 pm PST

Seems like a.no brainer regarding makup sex. Often a good way to get a woman seems to be ignoring her. Tears create rejection and the woman then becomes overly interested.

Joseph Shawa
19th January, 2011 @ 05:29 am PST
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