Why Do We Listen to Sad Songs?

Other scientists, together with Patrik Juslin, a music psychologist at Uppsala University in Sweden, argue that such findings make clear little concerning the worth of unhappy music. He wrote in a paper, “They merely transfer the burden of clarification from one stage, ‘Why does the second motion of Beethoven’s Eroica symphony arouse unhappiness?’, to one other stage, ‘Why does a sluggish tempo arouse unhappiness?’”

Instead, Dr. Juslin and others have proposed that there are cognitive mechanisms by means of which unhappiness will be induced in listeners. Unconscious reflexes within the mind stem; the synchronization of rhythm to some inside cadence, reminiscent of a heartbeat; conditioned responses to explicit sounds; triggered reminiscences; emotional contagion; a reflective analysis of the music — all appear to play some position. Maybe, as a result of unhappiness is such an intense emotion, its presence can immediate a optimistic empathic response: Feeling somebody’s unhappiness can transfer you in some prosocial method.

“You’re feeling simply alone, you are feeling remoted,” Dr. Knobe mentioned. “And then there’s this expertise the place you hear to some music, otherwise you choose up a guide, and you’re feeling such as you’re not so alone.”

To check that speculation, he, Dr. Venkatesan and George Newman, a psychologist on the Rotman School of Management, arrange a two-part experiment. In the primary half, they gave one in every of 4 music descriptions to greater than 400 topics. One description was of a music that “conveys deep and complicated feelings” however was additionally “technically very flawed.” Another described a “technically flawless” music that “doesn’t convey deep or advanced feelings.” The third music was described as deeply emotional and technically flawless, and the fourth as technically flawed and unemotional.

The topics had been requested to point out, on a seven-point scale, whether or not their music “embodies what music is all about.” The aim was to make clear how essential emotional expression usually — of pleasure, unhappiness, hatred or no matter — was to music on an intuitive stage. On the entire, topics reported that deeply emotional however technically flawed songs greatest mirrored the essence of music; Emotional expression was a extra salient worth than technical proficiency.

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 through which somebody expressed their emotions. (For instance: “An acquaintance is speaking to you about their week and expresses emotions of wistfulness.”) On the entire, the feelings that topics felt had been deeply rooted to “what music is all about” had been additionally those who made individuals really feel extra linked to each other in dialog: love, pleasure, loneliness, unhappiness, 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 concept: Maybe we hear to music not for an emotional response — many topics reported that unhappy music, albeit inventive, was not significantly pleasant — however for the sense of connection to others. Applied to the paradox of unhappy music: Our love of the music shouldn’t be a direct appreciation of unhappiness, it is an appreciation of connection. Dr. Knobe and Dr. Venkatesan had been rapidly on board.

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