Tears do not influence competence in general, but only under specific circumstances: A systematic investigation across 41 countries.

Monika Wrobel, Julia Wagrowska, Janis H. Zickfeld, Niels van de Ven

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Research on the effect of emotional tears on perceived competence has yielded an inconsistent pattern of findings, with some studies showing that tearful individuals may be perceived as less competent. while others report no such effect. These mixed results point to the likely existence of third variables influencing the link between tears and perceived competence and suggest that crying may affect competence only in specific circumstances. In the current project, we reexamine this link using a large, openly available dataset of responses to tearful faces collected across 41 countries and 7.007 participants (Zickfeld et al., 2021). Our results show that tears have no general effect on perceptions of competence but do reduce competence when crying is regarded as inappropriate (e.g., there is no clear reason for shedding tears) or when the target is perceived as helpless. Moreover, shedding tears increases competence when the target is perceived as honest. As emotional tears have been found to signal both helplessness and honesty, the interplay of these effects might result in no overall effect of tears on perceptions of competence. The present findings suggest that the link between emotional tears and perceived competence is highly context dependent.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)292-304
JournalEmotion
Volume22
Issue number2
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2022

Keywords

  • Competence
  • Culture
  • Emotional crying
  • Emotional tears
  • Social perception

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