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Why do we cry? The three types of tears - Alex Gendler

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Whether we cry during a sad movie, while chopping onions, or completely involuntarily, our eyes are constantly producing tears. Alex Gendler tracks a particularly watery day in the life of Iris (the iris) as she cycles through basal, reflex and emotional tears.

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  • Educator Alex Gendler
  • Animator Nadav Arbel
  • Artist Nir Philosof
  • Narrator Addison Anderson

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Additional Resources for you to Explore
Check out these microscopic images of tears. So beautiful!
The lacrimal apparatus works to produce tears that are needed to wet the front of the eye and flush debris from the ocular surface.
Many animals yelp or cry out when they're in pain. But as far as scientists can tell, we humans seem to be the only species that shed tears for emotional reasons. Scientists who study evolution say crying probably conferred some benefit and did something to advance our species — because it's stayed with us. Read more here.
A supporter of the Spanish team cries while watching the World Cup final soccer match, which Spain won 1-0. Crying may have evolved as a signal to those who were in close physical proximity to us, but it also adds a powerful dimension to interpersonal communication:


Women do it 64 times a year, men just 17. Actors and politicians do it on demand. But why does crying happen in the first place? John-Paul Flintoff learns that even scientists are still guessing.

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It is sometimes difficult to see how or why certain human physical characteristics would have evolved. One theory about emotional tears is that they signal your emotional state to others. Another says that they help to stabilize your mood by releasing stress hormones.
02/25/2014 • 
 17 Responses
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About TED-Ed Originals

TED-Ed Original lessons feature the words and ideas of educators brought to life by professional animators. Are you an educator or animator interested in creating a TED-Ed original? Nominate yourself here »

Meet The Creators

  • Educator Alex Gendler
  • Animator Nadav Arbel
  • Artist Nir Philosof
  • Narrator Addison Anderson

Share

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