A Moment of Science

Do Other Animals Besides Humans Cry?

Do other animals besides humans cry? Find out on this Moment of Science.

Do other animals besides humans cry?

All animals with mobile eyes are equipped with a tearing system that keeps their eyes lubricated, protecting their eyes from the elements and so on.

People tell tales of animals such as elephants and dogs weeping when punished. However, even if such an animal does shed tears, there is no scientific evidence that the animal is expressing emotion in doing so.

But what about when a baby chimp or ape whimpers and screams as it’s being separated from its mother, couldn’t we say with some certainty that the animal is crying?

While this display does elicit caregiving from the mother, prompting her to feed or protect the baby, it is less clear that what the baby is feeling is similar to what a human feels when he or she cries.

In fact, it’s not clear that crying and other emotional displays mean exactly the same thing to all humans. For instance, there is a wide range of emotions that prompt people to cry, and some bouts of weeping, such as crying at a stranger’s wedding, seem to be culturally programmed responses.

In addition, autistic people are said to be less emotionally expressive, but research has shown that it’s more that their expressions and their reactions to the emotional expressions of others are unusual. But does that mean that their sadness is different somehow?

So even if apes can be said with some certainty to be feeling emotions, then there is the problem of figuring out to what extent what they feel resembles what humans feel.

  • petedude

    Parsimony would suggest that animals, especially chimpanzees who share 98% of their DNA with homo sapiens, share our emotions too.

    In fact if you think about it, it's bloody stupid to think otherwise – unless you think that God created humans as special and unique?

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_E24ATR6LDZL6M4AVTERFXILJVI Kel

    Couldn't scientists just look at the different locations in the brain needed for a certain emotion? then they'd be able to compare it's size to other species.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_WX4GQX2PNHW5PEP7OLR34ZDGGM Imagine Reason

    We can image brain activity in different regions of the organ, but we can’t cause other animals to cry in an MRI machine. Regardless, this article tries mighty hard to deny other animals emotions. Just as the mentally retarded can feel emotions even if they are not as “conscious” as more normally developed people are, other animals can surely feel emotions just as we do, even if they can’t articulate their feelings. If we refuse to acknowledge when we see ourselves in other animals, we deny our own human nature.

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