sadmusicplayingNothing beats scientific evidence. In a study “The Paradox of Music-Evoked Sadness: An Online Survey” Liila Taruffi and Stefan Koelsch, who study music and the brain at the Free University of Berlin presents new and interesting research findings. You can read the full article here (opens in a new window). One important conclusion from the study is that there are differences between the emotional experiences resulting from listening to sad versus happy music. Big surprise. You don’t need to be a scientist to realize this. It’s obvious. But now let us walk through the not-so-obvious findings. The starting point for the study is the assumption that sadness is undesirable and is therefore usually avoided in everyday life. Yet, the question remains: Why do people seek and appreciate sadness in music? I count myself to the appreciators. Well, I’m maybe not an appreciator of dedicated sad music, but definitely dark music. I’m proud to say that I almost never listen happy music. In my world, happy music is reserved for stupid people. The study investigates the rewarding aspects of the music, as well as the relative contribution of listener characteristics and situational factors. The study also examines the different principles through which sadness is evoked by music, and their interaction with personality traits. Results show four different types of rewards: reward of imagination, emotion regulation, empathy, and no “real-life” implications. The appreciation of sad music is greater among individuals with high empathy and low emotional stability. Nostalgia is the most frequent emotion evoked by sad music and memory was rated as the most important principle through which sadness is evoked. The trait empathy contributes to the evocation of sadness through contagion, appraisal, and by engaging social functions. The findings indicate that emotional responses to sad music are very complex, are modulated by empathy, and are linked with a multidimensional experience of pleasure. This study reveals that listening to sad music can lead to beneficial emotional effects such as regulation of negative emotion and mood as well as consolation. These effects constitute the prime motivations for engaging with sad music in everyday life. At last, now I know why sad music makes me happy.  

 

 

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