5 posts tagged “emotional lability”

Are we really more likely to cry when watching movies on planes? New study de-mystifies the urban legend

Posted April 3rd, 2018 by

The Oscars have been awarded and spring travel is in full swing, which got us thinking about the urban legend that you’re more likely to cry watching a movie on a plane than on the ground. Is it just a myth or is there more to it?

While celebrities, polls and pop culture have covered the phenomenon — also jokingly known as altitude-adjusted lachrymosity syndrome (AALS) — no true scientific research has studied it. Until now.

An idea takes flight: The study set up

Paul Wicks, VP of Innovation at PatientsLikeMe, studies emotional lability, or uncontrolled crying and laughing, in people with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS, or motor neuron disease). But he’s also a frequent flier, and on a trip back from an ALS conference found himself a little weepy while watching Selma on a flight.

“Although I was studying this uncontrollable emotional expression in people with a medical condition, I thought maybe lots of healthy people might have uncontrollable, unexplained outburst of crying in certain settings, too.”

Enter the first scientific study on AALS. Wicks surveyed 1,084 people living in the United States who had watched a movie on a plane in the last 12 months. Participants answered questions about the films they viewed, whether they had consumed alcohol, if they’d watched any movies on the ground since their flight, and more.

The verdict: Frequent fliers aren’t always frequent criers

The study debunked the myth that we cry more on planes (25% of respondents reported crying while watching movies in the air vs. 22 % on the ground, a non-significant difference). Wicks was surprised by the results, but even more interested in some of the other unexpected takeaways…

Top takeaways

The most likely contributors to crying aren’t altitude or alcohol – it’s more about specific movies people are likely to choose on planes. Gender is also a factor, but Wicks says that could be because men are less likely to self-report crying at films. Here’s what else can increase your chances of tearing up:

A lot of it has to do with movie genre, too…

And if you pick these ones in particular, we hope you have tissues handy.

But in the end, it can be really personal, says Wicks:

“One mother reported that they took their daughters to see Wonder Woman and she cried not at the plot but to see the representation of a strong female protagonist for her daughters, and the feeling that her children were growing up with a better social culture than she did.”

Check out the full study results here, where you can also watch a video recap with Paul Wicks.

What’s your experience with crying on planes? What do you make of these study results? Share in the comments below.

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How Social Media Is Changing Research (Part I): A Guest Post by MS Clinical Trial Participant and Blogger Jeri Burtchell

Posted September 12th, 2012 by

Today’s guest post is written by PatientsLikeMe member Jeri Burtchell (TickledPink), who has been living with multiple sclerosis (MS) for 13 years.  A tie dye apparel store owner and mother of two, she writes a blog entitled “Gilenya and Me:  My Story of Being an MS Patient, a Hypochondriac and a Guinea Pig.”  Her patient advocacy and social media presence led to her being invited to speak the Disruptive Innovations conference taking place in Boston this week.

MS Patient, Blogger and Activist Jeri Burtchell (TickledPink at PatientsLikeMe)

One rainy day in April 2007, I was lying in bed, staring at the ceiling, talking myself out of suicide. I was having another MS relapse. This time it was attacking the part of my brain responsible for controlling emotion. As a result I was having panic attacks almost daily. Along with the emotional issues, I was also having trouble walking and horrible spasticity.

I had been diagnosed with MS for eight years at that point and, although I was on one of the FDA approved treatments, I was continuing to relapse three to four times a year. It felt like standing in the ocean; every time I would stand up and catch my breath, another “wave” of MS knocked me back down.

Deciding against suicide, I made some proactive choices that led to my meeting with the lead investigator of the Fingolimod (now marketed as Gilenya) clinical trials in Jacksonville, Florida. At my first appointment we discussed the Fingolimod trial called TRANSFORMS. I took the informed consent document home and went over all the risks and benefits with my family. After extensive baseline testing, I officially started the trial on August 20, 2007, a.k.a. “Randomization Day”, when I received my first dose of medication. I would return for regular testing many times over the next several years.

Joining the trial changed my life. I was very fortunate that I did not suffer any major side effects, and I am happy to say that my last MS attack to date was the very one which led me to contemplate suicide that day in April 2007.

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I was fascinated by the research during the trial. They did a lot of testing, and I have never felt more assured that my overall health was being tracked, observed and cared for as I did in the clinical trial. Since I did not have medical insurance, this was a plus on top of benefits I might be getting if on the real drug.

When the trial began, I wanted to know what to expect. I tried searching the Internet for a clinical trial from a patient’s perspective and could find nothing. I decided to share my experience with the world so others considering a trial might have their own fears put at ease. Thus my blog, www.gilenyaandme.com, was born.

I blogged all of my checkups and along the way something unexpected happened. Many people wrote to thank me for being the reason they felt able to overcome their own fears and join a clinical trial. We began connecting and sharing our personal experiences in a way only the Internet could enable.

Read Part II of Jeri’s guest post!