Have you ever wondered why people cry when they are happy? It’s never made much sense to me and apparently Yale psychologist Oriana Aragon was bemused by this too.
She had conducted series of studies on the subject and now has a better understanding about why people cry when they are happy.
She says, “People may be restoring emotional equilibrium with these expressions. 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.”
Aragon and her colleagues at Yale found that individuals who express negative reactions to positive news were able to moderate intense emotions more quickly.
There is also some evidence that strong negative feelings may provoke positive expressions. An example of this is nervous laughter when people are confronted with a difficult or frightening situation, and smiles have been found by other psychologists to occur during extreme sadness.
Aragon says that these new discoveries begin to explain common things that many people do but don’t even understand themselves.
She says, “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.”
Reminds me of an episode of ‘The Big Bang Theory’:
Sheldon: Why are you smiling?
Leonard: Yeah, Raj, why?
Raj: Uh, a smile means something different in my country. You know, tears of joy, smile of sadness. India’s a goofy place.
Aragon is the lead author of work to be published in the journal Psychological Science. Margaret S. Clark, Rebecca L. Dyer and John A. Bargh of Yale are co-authors.