Only the Good Cry: Investigating the Relationship Between Crying Proneness and Moral Judgments and Behavior


  • Janis H. Zickfeld
  • Shanmukh Kamble
  • Romy Oostelbos
  • Ad Vingerhoets


People cry for various reasons and in numerous situations, some involving highly moral aspects such as altruism or moral beauty. At the same time, criers have been found to be evaluated as more morally upright—they are perceived as more honest, reliable, and sincere than non-criers. The current project provides a first comprehensive investigation to test whether this perception is adequate. Across six studies sampling Dutch, Indian, and British adults (N = 2325), we explored the relationship between self-reported crying proneness and moral judgments and behavior, employing self-report measures and actual behavior assessments. Across all studies, we observed positive correlations of crying proneness with moral judgments (r = .27 [.17, .38]) and prosocial behavioral tendencies and behaviors (r = .20 [.12, .28]). These associations held in three (moral judgment) or two (prosocial tendencies and behaviors) out of five studies when controlling for other important variables. Thus, the current project provides first evidence that crying is related to moral evaluation and behavior, and we discuss its importance for the literature on human emotional crying.