Tears Trigger the Intention to Offer Social Support: A Systematic Investigation of the Interpersonal Effects of Emotional Crying Across 36 Countries

Sergio Barbosa, Janis H Zickfeld

Research output: Working paper

Abstract

Tearful crying is a ubiquitous and mainly human phenomenon. The persistence of this behavior throughout adulthood has fascinated and puzzled many researchers. Scholars have argued that emotional tears serve an attachment function: Tears are thought to act as a social glue that triggerbinds individuals together and triggers social support intentions. Initial experimental studies supported this proposition across several methodologies, but these were typically conducted almost exclusively in only across Western elite universities student participants from North America and Western Europe, resulting in limited generalizability across cultures, socioeconomic status and education. The present study examined the tears-social support intentions effect in a fully pre-registered study this effect across 7,007 participants (24,886 ratings) and 41 countries spanning all populated continents, ultimately providing a the most comprehensive investigation of the social effects of tearful crying to-date. In addition Next to testing possible mediating factors, we also pre-registered also examined a number of moderating factors, including the crier’s gender and group membership, the situational valence (positive or negative situations), the social context of crying (in private or public settings), the perceived appropriateness of crying, and trait empathy of the observer. We confirmed all but one of our predictions, with We observed an overall robust effect size of, d = .49 [.43, .55], for the intention to support individuals showing tears. This effect was fully mediated by perceiving the crying target as warm and helpless, as well as feeling empathic concern for the crier, but not by feeling connected or personal distress. The effect was moderated by the situational valence, identifying the target as part of one’s group, and trait empathic concern. Via split-half validation, We observed a high amount of heterogeneity across countries that was best explained by country-level GDP per capita and subjective well-being. The current work can inform theories on crying across the social sciences.
Original languageEnglish (US)
StateSubmitted - Oct 10 2020

Fingerprint Dive into the research topics of 'Tears Trigger the Intention to Offer Social Support: A Systematic Investigation of the Interpersonal Effects of Emotional Crying Across 36 Countries'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this