Singing the blues, sad but enjoyable

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Song sung blue, everybody knows one. And they make us sad. Really sad. Quantifiably sad. Listening to sad music brings on a real, physiological sadness. Furthermore, your personality enhances the effect one way or another.

Scientists have debated for years whether or not music influenced mood and how that might happen. There has never been a reliable way to measure the effect of music on emotion. But a unique study by Finnish researchers has revealed the effect.

The study participants listened to music that they themselves identified as sad and to music, created to be sad, that they had never heard before. Researchers measured the participant emotions while they listened to the music. They strove for objectivity by using indirect measures of memory and judgment. They discovered that while everyone felt sad listening to music they identified as sad, only those who were empathetic also felt sad when listening to the new music.

Jonna Vuoskoski from the Finnish Centre of Excellence in Interdisciplinary Music Research at the University of Jyvaskyla, Finland explained that the sad music elicits sad memories. This may be why familiar sad music strikes a chord with everyone, we all have sad memories. But the new music, unfamiliar to the participants, did not have those memory associations for everyone, just for the most empathetic.

Even though people were sad while listening to the music, they still reported enjoying the experience. Which goes to show that sad as a negative day-to-day emotion is not quite the same when associated with music. Vuoskoski commented that this is an interesting contradiction: listening to sad music can be an enjoyable, even uplifting experience.

Source: MedicalNewsToday, Psychology of Aesthetics, Creativity and the Arts

 
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