Why Do We Listen to Sad Songs? A New Study Offers an Answer.

In the second a part of the experiment, involving 450 new topics, the researchers gave every participant 72 descriptions of emotional songs, which expressed emotions together with “contempt,” “narcissism,” “inspiration” and “lustfulness.” For comparability, in addition they gave individuals prompts that described a conversational interplay by which somebody expressed their emotions. (For instance: “An acquaintance is talking to you about their week and expresses feelings of wistfulness.”) On the entire, the feelings that topics felt had been deeply rooted to “what music is all about” had been additionally people who made individuals really feel extra linked to each other in dialog: love, pleasure, loneliness, disappointment, ecstasy, calmness, sorrow.

Mario Attie-Picker, a thinker at Loyola University Chicago who helped lead the analysis, discovered the outcomes compelling. After contemplating the info, he proposed a comparatively easy thought: Maybe we pay attention to music not for an emotional response — many topics reported that unhappy music, albeit inventive, was not significantly gratifying — however for the sense of connection to others. Applied to the paradox of unhappy music: Our love of the music just isn’t a direct appreciation of disappointment, it’s an appreciation of connection. Dr. Knobe and Dr. Venkatesan had been shortly on board.

“I’m a believer already,” Dr. Eerola mentioned when he was alerted to the examine. In his personal analysis, he has discovered that significantly empathetic individuals are more likely to be moved by unfamiliar unhappy music. “They’re willing to engage in this kind of fictional sadness that the music is bringing them,” he mentioned. These individuals additionally show extra significant hormonal changes in response to unhappy music.

But unhappy music is layered — it’s an onion — and this clarification prompts extra questions. With whom are we connecting? The artist? Our previous selves? An imaginary person? And how can unhappy music be “all about” something? Doesn’t the facility of artwork derive, partly, from its capacity to transcend abstract, to increase expertise?

One by one, the researchers acknowledged the complexity of their topic, and the constraints of current work. And then Dr. Attie-Picker supplied a much less philosophical argument for his or her outcomes: “It just feels right,” he mentioned.

Audio produced by Adrienne Hurst.

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