Scent of a woman’s tears brings calm to men

REHOVOT, Israel — A woman’s tears appear to carry the secret formula for easing aggression in men. Researchers found that sniffing female tears produced a strange effect among male participants in an experiment designed to anger them. Compared to smelling saline solution, sniffing a woman’s tears significantly reduced brain activity linked to aggressive behavior in men.

An international team, led by Shani Agron at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel, note that prior studies have shown how the smell of female tears blocks aggression among male lab rats. This is an example of what scientists call chemosignaling. It’s a phenomenon that’s common among animals, but still a mystery among people.

To examine the possibility that men and women also produce these odorless chemicals, the researchers delved into the chemical makeup of tears and their impact on the human brain. For their study, they gathered a group of men to participate in a series of two-player games. Scientists designed the games to trigger aggressive behavior among the competitors, and also led the men to believe that their opponent was cheating. However, the researchers gave each man the opportunity to get revenge by causing their opponent to lose money.

Couple fighting or arguing
Scientists say that a chemical found in women’s tears significantly reduces aggression in men. (Photo 42220081 © Iakov Filimonov |

While all of this was happening, researchers had the men smell a sample of a woman’s tears or saline — both of which are odorless. Results show that men sniffing the emotional tears of women saw their aggression and desire for revenge drop by a staggering 43.7 percent. During MRI scans, the team also found less activity in the prefrontal cortex and anterior insula among men sniffing women’s tears. Both of these brain regions have a connection to aggressive behavior in humans.

Ultimately, scientists say that certain olfactory receptors in the nose are activated by substances found in tears, even though these tears have no noticeable smell.

“We found that just like in mice, human tears contain a chemical signal that blocks conspecific male aggression. This goes against the notion that emotional tears are uniquely human,” the researchers conclude in a media release.

This discovery opens up new avenues for understanding human social behavior and emotional communication. It also raises questions about the role of tears in other aspects of human interaction, beyond their traditional association with sadness or grief. Charles Darwin once described emotional tearing as an “incidental result” with no apparent function beyond eye maintenance. This study challenges that view, suggesting that tears could play a vital role in social signaling and emotional regulation.

The findings are published in the journal PLOS Biology.

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About the Author

Chris Melore

Chris Melore has been a writer, researcher, editor, and producer in the New York-area since 2006. He won a local Emmy award for his work in sports television in 2011.

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  1. Curious if they tested with MAGA tears. Not only does it calm but it heightens the “happy” center of the brain. What a BS study. I’m sure this study took all the “scientific” precautions to avoid biases. Not.

  2. Just women’s tears? Not men’s? Maybe that’s why women cry more than men do. A woman’s tears can bring mercy. Not so much for a guy.

  3. The elephant in this room is the rats and mice. They have tears? How does one make them cry? Hurt them? Hurt or kill their mates or offspring? What is the SPCA’s take on this?

  4. Actually a woman’s tears creates a deer in the headlights scenario, where the man wants to know he did wrong this time!

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