Your eyes are bone dry when you're hurt or sad. But the night your team took home the title? Waterworks. What's the deal with that?
For the first time, researchers have looked into this odd "tears of joy" phenomenon. The Yale University study team calls it a "dimorphous display" -- meaning your expressions and reactions don’t seem to match up with how you're feeling. Other examples include smiling when you’re frustrated, or making sad faces or sounds when you see an adorable baby.
Put simply, your tears of joy (or any other reactions that don’t match how you’re feeling) seem to be your brain's way of preserving emotional equilibrium, says study coauthor Oriana Aragón, Ph.D.
The stronger the emotion, the more likely you are to compensate with displays that don’t really match how you’re feeling, Aragón adds.
(There's also a physiological reason for shedding tears. Discover The Weird Science Behind Why You Cry.)
The tougher question: Why would you want to temper or hold back your happiest emotions? Aragón and her colleagues say it’s possible your tears of joy are meant to give extremely happy events a greater sense of significance. It could also be that crying is a way of signaling to other people that you’re overwhelmed or incapacitated with joy.
Now go rewatch footage of the United States Hockey Team's Miracle on Ice win over Russia in the 1980 Olympics. If that doesn't at least make your eyes glisten, then you might not be human. (Want to know more about the miracle? Learn how Herb Brooks motivated his team.)