Women cry five times as often as men, a typical crying episode lasts about six minutes and tears are most often shed between 7 and 10 p.m. according to a new study that Minnesota biochemist William H. Frey II calls "the first formal investigation of adult human crying behavior."
Crying stimulated by emotion is unique to the human being, notes Frey, 34, who has been testing his theory that emotional tears are nature's way of excreting bodily chemicals that build up in response to stress.
"This hypothesis suggests," he says, "that emotional tears should be chemically different from tears produced in response to eye irritation by onions, for example." While Frey has found "a statistically significant difference in the amounts of protein" in emotional and irritant tears, chemicals found in emotional tears have yet to be linked with emotional stress.
Gathering the tears was "a challenge" admits Frey, who ran newspaper ads asking "Will You Cry for Us?" and paid participants $3 to $10 to sit through a tear-jerker movie -- "Brian's Song" was one of the weepiest -- and then come back to cry over chopped onions.
In his recent investigation of crying frequency, 286 females and 45 males ("men volunteered much less often than women") kept records for 30 days of all emotional and irritant crying episodes. Less detailed crying information was gathered from 201 females and 124 males.
"From a biochemical viewpoint people who are sad or depressed could be suffering from a chemical imbalance," claims Frey, "that is restored, at least partially, by the excretion of certain substances in tears."
Although Frey owns up to shedding emotional tears "maybe once every three or four months," the subjects of his study cried much more often:
* Women cried about 5.3 times in the month, men about 1.4 times.
* Only 6 percent of females reported no emotional crying episodes, while 45 percent of the males reported none.
* Most male crying episodes (71 percent) were comprised of "watery eyes" only, without "flowing tears" (which nearly half of female crying episodes included).
* Nearly three-fourths of the females and 58 percent of the males reported feeling "generally positive" about crying. Eighty-five percent of females and 73 percent of males said they usually felt better after crying.
* The stimulus for female crying episodes: 40 percent interpersonal relations (arguments, weddings, etc.), 27 percent media (movies, TV, etc.) 6 percent sad thoughts, 1 percent physical pain and 26 percent "other." Stimulus for male crying: 36 percent media, 36 percent interpersonal relations, 9 percent sad thoughts and 19 percent other.
* The primary emotions associated with female crying episodes: 49 percent sadness, 21 percent happiness, 10 percent anger, 7 percent sympathy, 5 percent anxiety, 3 percent fear and 5 percent other.
* "A lump in the throat" occurred in half of female and 29 percent of male crying episodes, "sobbing" in 14 percent of female and 10 percent of male episodes.
* Sixty-eight percent of males and 46 percent of females said they could stop themselves from crying.
* There was no significant correlation of emotional crying frequency with age.
Among some other findings from the more than 1,000 papers presented at last week's American Psychological Association convention: Good News Bearers
People tend to transmit positive messages readily but withhold negative messages, say University of Dayton psychologists Frank Kardes, Charles Kimble, Frank DaPolito and David Biers.
"Theorists suggest that we like people who are associated with positive events," they note, "and dislike those associated with negative events . . . To avoid delivering bad news, communicators may resort to evasion or deception."
In communicating either good or bad news, people "are expected to be brief and perfunctory in encounters where future social interaction is unlikely," and more image-conscious if they anticipate future contact.
In the Dayton study, 48 subjects were asked to tell individual students whether they had done well or poorly on a test. "Good-news subjects" engaged in more eye contact and were more truthful than "bad-news subjects."
"Bad news" subjects communicated longer than "good news" subjects. The "most truthful" subjects were those delivering good news to people they anticipated seeing in the future. The "least truthful" were those delivering good news and not anticipating future contact and those delivering bad news and anticipating future contact. He, She
"Language shapes reality for each new generation of humans," says psychologist Mary Crawford of West Chester (Pa.) State College. "Just as modern cognitive psychology has taught us to regard the child as a talented linguist, capable of abstracting the rules of grammar from the language she hears, we can also regard her as a linguistic anthropologist, capable of deriving the rules of her culture from the clues given in its language."
Some "cultural rules" inherent in the English language, says Crawford, "ignore women's experience and express attitudes of contempt and disdain for women." Among her examples:
* Generic masculine language -- he, him, his, man -- referring to humans is generally not interpreted to mean "he or she." According to several studies, readers of all ages interpret these pronouns literally.
* Neutral terms used to describe women often acquire pejorative and sexual connotations over time. Examples include "spinster" and "mistress."
* Many popular terms for sexual intercourse are non-reciprocal and violence-laden.
Although the use of "his" may be gender-neutral in a grammatical sense, "it is clearly not gender-neutral in a psychological sense," notes Janet Shibley Hyde of Denison University (Granville, Ohio) in her paper on "Children's Understanding of Sexist Language." "When people hear 'he', even in a clearly gender-neutral context, they more often think of males."
In a study of 310 elementary-school students she discovered, "the majority do not know the rule that 'he' in gender-neutral contexts refers to both males and females. In short, for them the typical child is referred to as 'he,' but 'he' always refers to males; therefore, the typical child must be male.
"At best, this set of cognitions must be confusing to children. But beyond that, it must also contribute to their gender-role learning. By first grade, children accord more power and prestige to the male role, and by first grade girls have less self-confidence and lower expectations for success than boys. Could language have contributed to these phenomena?" Sex and "Type A"
Classic "Type A" behavior -- aggressive, achievement-striving and time-urgent -- spills over into the bedroom, according to psychologists Michael A. Becker and Donn Byrne of the State University of New York at Albany.
Their study of 16 married couples suggests that "Type A behavior has negative implications for the marital sexual behavior of Type A males, the wives of Type A males and the husbands of Type A females. In contrast . . . Type A females find marital sexual interaction quite satisfying."
Type A males "expressed dissatisfaction with several aspects of their marital sexual interactions." Typically, these men wanted more and longer sexual contact and wanted to exert less control over its initiation and conclusion.
Wives of Type A's agreed with their husbands that they would like the range and/or the frequency of sexual activity to increase. "More importantly," note Becker and Byrne, "wives of Type A's perceive their husbands as not deriving pleasure from sexual activity and revealed that they would also like to experience more pleasure from sex than they currently do. However, wives of Type A's actually enjoy sex more than wives of Type B's (more relaxed personalities) when they have initiated the sexual activity."
A different picture emerged with Type A females. Compared to their Type B counterparts, these women reported that they more often think about sex and derive greater satisfaction. However, Type A females also perceive their spouses as not deriving pleasure from sexual activity and wish that their husbands would inititate sex more frequently.
In contrast, husbands of Type A females would prefer that their wives initiate sex less and consider "the current range and/or frequency of specific sexual behaviors is too great."