Why Do We Cry at Movies?

We could be purging toxins—or searching for meaning in our fleeting existence
By Sam Gale Rosen,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 5, 2007 4:30 AM CST
President Clinton wipes his eye while attending a memorial service for the late Commerce Secretary Ron Brown, with first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton in this April 3, 1997, file photo in Washington. Tears...   (Associated Press)
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(Newser) – Why do we cry at movies? Washington Post film critic Desson Thomson, recalling his own waterworks watching emotional films, checked out some research to find out. Audiences weep out of empathy, according to one expert. Women definitely cry more than men (four times as much) and weeping releases internal toxins. People "literally cry it out," he said.

But another expert disagrees. If crying served as "therapy" then actors who cry on stage "would be the most psychologically healthy people in our culture, and we know that's not true," he remarked. Finally, a communications professor placed it all on a higher plane. "Tears aren't just tears of sadness, they're tears of searching for the meaning of our fleeting existence," she said. Now that's entertainment.