Title

Can the Distress-Signal and Arousal-Reduction Views of Crying be Reconciled? Evidence from the Cardiovascular System

Document Type

Article

Publication Date

2007

Keywords

crying; autonomic arousal; heart rate; respiratory sinus arrhythmia; distress signal

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

http://doi.org/10.1037/1528-3542.7.2.458

Abstract

Theorists have staked out two ostensibly opposing views of human crying as either an arousing behavior that signals distress or a soothing behavior that reduces arousal after distress. The present study examined whether these views of crying might be reconciled by attending to physiological changes that unfold over crying episodes. Sixty female students watched neutral and cry-eliciting films while autonomic physiology, including respiratory sinus arrhythmia and pre-ejection period, was assessed. Crying participants exhibited heart rate increases that rapidly subsided after crying onset. Crying onset was also associated with increases in respiratory sinus arrhythmia and slowed breathing. All crying effects subsided by 4 minutes after onset. It is possible that crying is both an arousing distress signal and a means to restore psychological and physiological balance, depending on how and when this complex behavior is interrogated.

Was this content written or created while at USF?

Yes

Citation / Publisher Attribution

Emotion, v. 7, issue 2, p. 458- 463

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