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Dogs cry ‘happy tears’ when reunited with their favourite humans

<p dir="ltr">Along with frenzied tail-wagging and plenty of face licks, new research suggests that dogs can even shed tears when they’re happy to see you.</p> <p dir="ltr">Takefumi Kikusui, a researcher in the school of veterinary medicine at Japan’s Azabu University, first observed the phenomenon six years ago while watching his poodle nurse her puppies, when he noticed there were tears in her eyes.</p> <p dir="ltr">“That gave me the idea that oxytocin might increase tears,” he said.</p> <p dir="ltr">Oxytocin is known as the maternal or “love hormone”, Kikusui explained, with previous research finding that the hormone is released in both dogs and their owners when they interact.</p> <p dir="ltr">To test their teary theory, Kikusui and his colleagues decided to run an experiment where they reunited dogs with their familiar humans, as well as with strangers, and measured the volume of tears in the dogs’ eyes before and after.</p> <p dir="ltr">Publishing their findings in the journal <em><a href="" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Current Biology</a></em>, the scientists found that tear volume increased when the pooches returned to their favourite humans, but not with a person they didn’t know.</p> <p dir="ltr">In a second experiment, the team added oxytocin to the dogs’ eyes to see whether there was a connection to the tears. With the tear volume also going up after oxytocin was added, they concluded that it was proof that oxytocin plays a role in tear production when dogs interact with their owners.</p> <p dir="ltr">Surprisingly, when they asked people to rate dog faces with and without tears, people gave more positive responses to photos of teary-eyed pups, suggesting that tear production in dogs also helps them and their owners forge stronger connections.</p> <p dir="ltr">“We had never heard of the discovery that animals shed tears in joyful situations, such as reuniting with their owners, and we were all excited that this would be a world first!” Kikusui said.</p> <p dir="ltr">Having found that dogs produce tears in situations we’d consider ‘happy’, future work will look to see how teary they get in response to negative emotions and whether being teary plays a social role in how dogs interact with each other.</p> <p dir="ltr">“Dogs have become a partner of humans, and we can form bonds,” Kikusui said. </p> <p dir="ltr">“In this process, it is possible that the dogs that show teary eyes during interaction with the owner would be cared for by the owner more.”</p> <p><span id="docs-internal-guid-2be14e3c-7fff-ae30-980c-cb1393604fd2"></span></p> <p dir="ltr"><em>Image: Getty Images</em></p>

Family & Pets

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If you cry while watching movies, it is probably a sign of your emotional strength

<p>You have probably found yourself weeping quietly, or even suddenly sobbing uncontrollably, while watching a movie. Common culprits include <em>Marley and Me, The Color Purple, Schindler’s List</em> and <em>The Lion King</em>.</p> <p>You may have tried to blubber discretely so your dry-eyed companions didn’t think you were a sook (and no doubt you had a sneaky look sideways to see if they were glassy-eyed too), or you may have boldly sobbed away.</p> <p>Why do we cry in movies? Is this a sign of emotional weakness (hence hiding it from your friends) or an indicator of strength – evidence of emotional intelligence?</p> <p>Good movies are carefully crafted to engage us and be deeply absorbing. They transport us into the world of their characters: to see as they see, feel as they feel, and even totally identify with a character in some cases. We know movies are not real, but we are so engrossed that we emotionally react as though they are.</p> <p>Some are based on true stories, and knowing this makes them even more potent. The emotional power of some movies is especially captivating: they’re not called tearjerkers for nothing.</p> <h2>The love hormone</h2> <p>Neuroscientist Paul Zak <a href="" target="_blank" rel="noopener">has studied</a> the effects of compelling stories, showing watching them can cause the release of oxytocin.</p> <p>Oxytocin is best known for its role in childbirth and breast feeding, increasing contractions during labour and stimulating the milk ducts. It is also released in response to positive physical contact – hugging, kissing, sexual intimacy and even petting animals – as well as through positive social interactions.</p> <p>Consequently, it has been called the “<a href="" target="_blank" rel="noopener">love hormone</a>”.</p> <p>As social animals, our survival depends on social bonding, and oxytocin is critical. It helps us to identify and attach with our essential caregivers and protective social groups.</p> <p>According to another neuroscientist, Robert Froemke, <a href="" target="_blank" rel="noopener">recent research</a> shows oxytocin has an even broader impact and acts as a “volume dial”, amplifying brain activity related to whatever a person is currently experiencing.</p> <p>So, although oxytocin may be targeted biologically at ensuring strong social bonds, it also serves to enhance emotional responses.</p> <p>Crying in the movies is a sign that oxytocin has been triggered by the connections you feel due to vicarious social experience. Your attention is captured and emotions elicited by the movie’s story.</p> <p>Oxytocin is then associated with heightened feelings of empathy and compassion, further intensifying feelings of social connectedness and you pay even further attention to the social cues of the characters in the movie. Hence the sudden emotional outpour!</p> <h2>Empathy is a sign of strength</h2> <p>Empathy is a key component of emotional intelligence.</p> <p>Emotional intelligence is the ability to identify and regulate your own emotions and to understand and manage the emotions of others.</p> <p>According to psychologist Daniel Goleman, empathy is one of <a href="" target="_blank" rel="noopener">five key</a> emotional intelligence characteristics, along with self-awareness, self-regulation, motivation and social skills.</p> <p>High emotional intelligence has <a href="" target="_blank" rel="noopener">been shown</a> to be associated with effective leadership, professional success and academic achievement, as well as better social and intimate relationships. It <a href="" target="_blank" rel="noopener">is linked to</a> with psychological and physical health and well-being, and greater emotional intelligence helps to deal with stress and conflict.</p> <p>Crying in response to a movie reveals high empathy, social awareness and connection – all aspects of emotional intelligence. As such, it is an indicator of <a href="" target="_blank" rel="noopener">personal strength</a> rather than weakness.</p> <p>Sobbing openly may be a particular sign of strength, as it shows that a person is unafraid to display their emotional reaction to others.</p> <h2>Crying is not a sign of weakness</h2> <p>A reason why crying in movies has been viewed as a sign of emotional weakness is that crying, especially crying in response to the pain of others, is seen as a <a href="" target="_blank" rel="noopener">stereotypically</a> female behaviour.</p> <p>Add in that oxytocin, and its relationship with empathy and social bonding, is strongly associated with child-bearing, and the crying = female = weak connection is established.</p> <p>But there is nothing weak about demonstrating your emotional intelligence. Emotional crying is a <a href="" target="_blank" rel="noopener">uniquely</a> human behaviour. Good movies embed us in another world, eliciting powerful emotions and triggering biological processes in our brain.</p> <p>Suddenly being awash in tears shows a strong empathy response. Blubber away and be proud of your emotional intelligence – and maybe search out tearjerker movies to check out the emotional response of your friends.</p> <p><em><strong>This article originally appeared on <a href="" target="_blank" rel="noopener">The Conversation</a>.</strong></em></p> <p><em>Image: Shutterstock</em></p>


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