Tears are more than just an indicator of sadness, Wired reports—they may be the indicator, as far as other people are concerned. People categorize identical images of a face totally differently if tears are present in one photo and digitally removed from the other, a new study found. “One of the startling things is that the faces not only look less sad but they don't look sad at all,” the lead researcher said. “They look neutral.”
“Any photograph you see, you can put your finger on the screen and block out the tears. It's like the face is transformed,” he continued. The research builds on earlier work identifying universal human gestures, but the study’s authors say the findings go far beyond that and deserve further investigation. “With tears, you increase the richness of the face as an instrument for communication,” the author said.