The crying game: How tears can work for you
Brand New Images/Getty By Sonia van Gilder Cooke BRITISH tennis player Andy Murray knows what it’s like to be unpopular. Early in his career, his aloofness and volatility on the court left many with the impression that he was petulant, spoiled, even unpatriotic. Then came Wimbledon 2012, and a gruelling final against six-time champion Roger Federer. After Murray lost, he took the microphone to thank his fans. He quavered, tried to speak and stopped to wipe away tears. In that moment, Murray won over the British public. “It took me crying at Wimbledon,” he later acknowledged. But tears can have the opposite effect. In 1972, they were the undoing of US Democratic presidential hopeful Edmund Muskie. He was his party’s front runner at first, but his campaign fell apart after he was accused of crying while addressing the press to defend his wife’s reputation. He claimed the moisture on his face was melting snowflakes – the event took place outdoors in a blizzard – but to no avail. His image as the candidate of calm and reason was shattered. That crying can change people’s fates is beyond doubt; history is full of examples. But why tears can have such a far-reaching effect is not obvious. “If you compare tearful crying with other emotional expressions, very little is known,” says psychologist Asmir Gracanin at the University of Rijeka, Croatia. What we do know is that emotional crying is downright weird. Many animals produce tears to protect their eyes, but humans alone cry out of feeling. And we cry not only when we’re sad, but also when we’re happy, overwhelmed, enraptured and in pain. Why do we do it?