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Tears of joy

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Ayn Rand had an interesting hypothesis as to why people cry of joy. She said that it's actually a sadness over the fact that such beautiful moments are such a rare exception in life. In other words, it comes from philosophy and experience, and it's not the joy per se that makes you cry, but the grief that it's rare.

It has the ring of truth to it, after all, you don't see children cry of joy that often. But what do we make of this video, of a mother singing to her baby, which is crying silently? Are we simply "projecting" and assuming that it's crying "of joy" like an adult person, when in reality, it might cry because of something else? 

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I don't know about the baby. My hypothesis though is that crying is a response to any sufficiently strong emotion, serving as a bit of a release valve when an emotion starts to get kind of overwhelming. You feel a bit calmer after crying. Having a fairly quick way to calm down a bit could be helpful to keep one more able to function. Even if what you're feeling is good, back when the crying response developed, it was likely more important to be alert and prepared to respond to sudden threats at any time. That crying wound up being heavily associated with sadness to the point that crying when happy is seen as paradoxical is itself a little sad in its implications. As for why kids aren't known to cry when happy, some guesses: they haven't developed as much in the way of long term concerns as adults yet, having fewer freedoms and responsibilities, so when something good happens for them they tend to have fewer other concerns weighing on them in the background at the time, but the good thing itself doesn't have as much of an impact on their life as some things can for adults. In short, their happiness is likely undiluted, but not able to get as intense.

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