Making women cry is something that men do on a regular basis, often without any idea how or why they are doing it. A team of researchers at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot, Israel, were well aware of the hows and whys when they subjected a pair of women to sad films in order to harvest their sweet, sweet tears. They wanted to see how the tears smelled.
More precisely, they wanted to see how the scent of female tears affected male arousal. It’s the sort of experiment men have been running for centuries, only this time Noam Sobel and colleagues were getting paid for it, weren’t being complete jerks, and remembered to record the results.
The researchers soaked some pieces of cotton with the tears, while another batch was soaked with saline solution. A group of 24 men were then asked to rate the sexual attractiveness of a series of photographs depicting female faces while the cotton was held under their noses. The men were so harsh with their critiques that the photos began to cry.
OK, that didn’t happen. What did happen was the men smelling real female tears rated the attractiveness of the pictures lower than the men that had only been sniffing saline.
Interesting results, but the researchers weren’t finished! They took those men and made them watch a sad movie (Ishtar, perhaps?), measuring their testosterone levels as the films progressed. They found that testosterone levels dropped, but only in those men that had been sniffing female tears during the movie.
Then, to make up for the sad movies, the researchers stuck the men in an MRI and let them watch “sexually arousing films” while monitoring the portions of the brain associated with arousal (the penis?). Again, men that smelled real female tears showed less activity in those portions of the brain.
What does it all mean? Are women’s tears some sort of chemical signal warning men away?
Sobel maintains tears could be useful in lowering arousal in some situations. “We’ve identified a word that means ‘no’ in the language of chemical communication,” he says. “We know that women tend to cry more during menstruation, when it’s not an effective time to conceive.”
So what about men’s tears? What does a crying man indicate? What are we trying to signal? What do you folks think?
The scent of a woman’s tears wards off men [NewScientist]