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"Tears of Joy" Mystery Solved

Update Date: Nov 11, 2014 03:32 PM EST
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People cry "tears of joy" to maintain emotional equilibrium, according to a new study.

"People may be restoring emotional equilibrium with these expressions," lead author Oriana Aragon, a psychologist at Yale University, said in a news release. "They seem to take place when people are overwhelmed with strong positive emotions, and people who do this seem to recover better from those strong emotions."

Researchers noted that there are many examples of positive experiences triggering negative emotions. For instance, a wife may cry tears of joy when she is reunited with her husband returning from war, groupies and fans may scream with joy in the presence of their favorite pop artist or sports star, and cooing adults may feel the uncontrollable need to pinch a cute baby's cheeks.

Aragon and her team found that individuals respond to happy experiences with negative reactions moderate intense emotions more quickly than their positive counterparts. The study also revealed that people who are most likely to cry at their kid's graduation are also more likely to want to squeeze a cute baby's cheeks.

"These insights advance our understanding of how people express and control their emotions, which is importantly related to mental and physical health, the quality of relationships with others, and even how well people work together," Aragon said.

The findings are published in the journal Psychological Science.

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