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Why do some people like sad songs (and others don’t)?
Dramons like Adele’s song “Someone Like You” frequently top the charts, while bleak classical compositions like Mozart’s “Requiem” have moved people for centuries. Both provoke in the listener a strong sense of loss and sadness. Our enjoyment of sad music is paradoxical: despite the fact that in our daily lives we do everything possible to avoid sadness, why, in art, can we experience, deeply enjoy and even celebrate themes such as loss? we have been puzzled for a long time about this phenomenon and it was not until recently that we started to have a clearer idea of how we enjoy music. In a study published in “Frontiers in Psychology,” a group of researchers discovered why some of us enjoy sad music more than others. The result has a lot to do with empathy. Research has already shown that open-minded people tend to value sophisticated music more, while “systematizers” (those individuals with a keen interest in patterns, systems and rules) They tend to prefer intense music like rock and punk, but what about sad music? Surely no one would like to hear it, except that the emotion experienced is not a real sadness, but a kind of transformed version of it. Based on numerous surveys on how people feel when listening to sad music, we know that these experiences generally fall into different categories. For some, sad music actually deepens and amplifies feelings of pain and loss, emotions that are connected to stories and personal memories. These experiences are far from pleasant and therefore offer no explanation for the paradox. For others, sad music gives them a sense of melancholy, the kind of feeling that one can experience on a rainy day after losing their favorite team. The mystery of feeling moved However, the most curious type of experience is the feeling that something is moving you. According to the study, this is the origin of our fascination with sad music. This experience can be difficult to describe in words, but it is often intense and enjoyable. However, it seems that not everyone is capable of experiencing it. So who would do it? Intuitively, it would be logical that those who empathize easily are also more easily moved. To demonstrate this hypothesis, we assembled a sample of 102 participants for a listening experiment. We played them a sad piece of instrumental music, “Discovery of the Camp,” by Michael Kamen, which had played briefly in the miniseries “Band of Brothers.” In a first pilot study, the vast majority had failed to recognize the piece. We decided to focus on instrumental pieces that interviewees had probably not previously heard in order to exclude any external sources of emotion, such as specific memories related to a certain piece of music or the lyrics. of some song. In other words, we wanted to be sure that emotional responses were triggered by the music itself. We also asked listeners to provide us with information on a number of variables: whether, for example, they were prone to nostalgia, or what their status was. your mood, your health and your quality of life at those times. We also analyzed their musical preferences and used the standard measure of empathy (the index of interpersonal reactivity) to assess their capacity for empathy. The experiences generated by this particular piece of music ranged from feeling relaxed or moved to, in some cases, becoming anxious. or nervous. The participants who confessed to being moved spoke of intense, pleasant and yet sad emotions at the same time. Crucially, we found that people who were moved by the piece also scored high on empathy. On the contrary, those with a tendency to be unsympathetic hardly declared that they were moved by this music. Furthermore, our research suggests that the key to enjoyment does not lie in the ability to empathize with the sad emotions expressed by the music, but also with the ability to self-regulate and distance yourself from this process. This specific component of empathy is known as “empathic concern.” While empathy means responding to the emotion perceived by someone who is experiencing a similar feeling, “empathic concern” also means feeling tenderness, compassion, and sympathy for that person. This specific trait was the one that allowed us to predict most accurately whether our participants were going to declare that they had been moved by sad music. How to understand the results The research adds to a series of studies that suggest that social cognition intervenes in the appreciation of music. People who are sensitive and willing to empathize with other people’s misfortune, in this case represented by sad music, somehow find themselves rewarded in the process. Why is this happening? There are several theories about it, the payoff could be purely biochemical. We have all experienced the feeling of relief and serenity after crying at ease. This is due to a cocktail of chemicals caused by crying. A recent theory proposes that even a fictitious sadness serves to trick our body and trigger an endocrine response of this type, aimed at alleviating the mental pain that real loss implies. This response is triggered by hormones like oxytocin and prolactin, which actually awaken feelings of comfort, tenderness, and gentle pleasure in us. This combination of hormones is probably particularly potent when you remove actual loss and sadness from the equation, which can often be done with music-inducing sadness. It is also possible that the effect is primarily psychological. Those who allow themselves to be emotionally immersed in sad music are simply exercising their entire emotional repertoire in a way that is rewarding in itself. The ability to understand the emotions of others is crucial to navigating the social world we live in, and therefore exercising that ability is likely to be rewarding, due to its evolutionary importance. Like a very strong drug Music could almost be compared to a very strong drug. If empathy is at the center of the transformation of this “drug” into pleasure or pain, could not music be used to train people to be more empathetic? We do not know yet, although music therapy is commonly used to rehabilitate people with emotional disorders such as depression or low self-esteem. Understanding the emotional transformations sad music brings about could certainly help us understand how music intervention might be used for individuals with emotional disorders. While we may not have fully cracked the code for these transformations, this study is a first He passed. In any case, it seems that getting carried away and immersed in a musical journey into tragedy and pain may be just what your social mind craves and needs to stay in shape.This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original.Tuomas Eerola does not receive a salary, nor does he practice consulting, nor does he own shares, nor does he receive funding from any company or organization that can benefit from this article, and he has declared that he lacks relevant links beyond the academic position cited.