Why We Cry at Movies | kick oxytocin into high gear and impel our empathy.

Confessions of a movie crier By Paul J. Zak…


So, why do we cry at movies? Cognitively, we know that the story we are watching is (usually) fictional and the actors are paid to play on our emotions. But still we can’t help it. I can understand crying when you see your child or spouse get a painful medical procedure, or even when you watch an injured person on the TV news, but at a movie? In previous posts, I introduced the neuropeptide oxytocin as modulating empathy.


Oxytocin engages brain circuits that make us care about others, even complete strangers. Perhaps surprisingly, oxytocin engages at the smallest suggestion that someone wants to connect to us. I’ve showed, for example, that a person’s brain releases oxytocin when he or she is entrusted with money by a stranger. Could oxytocin make us cry in movies?