How visible tears affect observers’ judgements and behavioral intentions: Sincerity, remorse, and punishment

Alfonso Picó*, Asmir Gračanin, Marien Gadea, Andrea Boeren, Marta Aliño, Ad Vingerhoets

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

Abstract

Crying is a uniquely human behavior, the functions of which are at present not completely understood. We hypothesized that tears promote the perception of morally relevant traits and states such as sincerity, honesty, and remorse, which facilitate social bonding and we, therefore, predicted that tears would reduce the punishments proposed for transgressors. Participants were exposed to photographs of tearful people and the same pictures with the tears digitally removed, together with brief descriptions of everyday transgressions (Study 1, N = 71) and crimes (Study 2; N = 359). The dependent variables were the judgment of the model’s emotionality (Study 1), sincerity (situational in Study 1 and trait in Study 2), and kindness, remorse, and proposed punishment (Study 2 only). As expected, models with visible tears were rated as more emotional and reliable and were also judged as kinder and more remorseful than tearless transgressors. However, the more positive perception of tearful transgressors only translated into more lenient punishment in the case of drunk driving. In conclusion, although tears make transgressors appear more sincere, reliable, kind and remorseful, they do not necessarily affect proposed punishments for the transgression.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)215-232
JournalJournal of Nonverbal Behavior
Volume44
Issue number2
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2020

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