From PsychEvos Wiki

Sadness serves specific adaptive functions that have evolved to help humans cope with various challenges faced by our ancestors[1]. The evolutionary view of sadness examines the various aspects and potential benefits of this emotion in human evolution.


The evolutionary psychology of emotions, including sadness, is rooted in Charles Darwin's work, which proposes that emotions serve as coordinating mechanisms to address specific adaptive problems[2]. This perspective views sadness as a functional emotion that plays a role in human evolution.

Adaptive aspects of sadness

Sadness, as an evolved emotion, serves various adaptive functions, including the following:

  • Soliciting external support: Sadness may elicit support from others in times of need or loss, helping individuals cope with challenging situations[3].
  • Processing loss: Sadness allows individuals to move through and process loss, helping them adapt to new circumstances[4].
  • Centering the self: Experiencing sadness can help individuals become more self-aware and in tune with their own emotions[5].

Sadness and depression

Evolutionary psychology distinguishes between sadness and depression. While sadness serves adaptive functions, chronic sadness is often misdiagnosed as depression[6]. Depression, in contrast to sadness, has been hypothesized to serve as a mental adaptation that brings certain cognitive advantages[7].

Different types of tears

Research in evolutionary psychology investigates the different types of tears humans shed, including tears of joy, sadness, and grief. The authenticity or sincerity of these tears can provide insight into the evolutionary functions of sadness and other emotions[8].


The evolutionary psychology of sadness offers an understanding of this emotion as an adaptive response that has evolved to help humans navigate various challenges. Sadness serves multiple functions, such as soliciting external support, processing loss, and centering the self. This perspective distinguishes between sadness and depression, emphasizing the distinct evolutionary roles of these emotions.