Sad Music can Give you the Blues

Music can induce changes in emotion related memory and judgment

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(RxWiki News) It's been believed and debates for centuries: can listening to melancholy music actually make you feel sad? Research may have proven that it can.

Researchers believe sad music not only expresses emotions, but creates them and can actually evoke genuine sadness.

The results indicated that listening to sad music can induce changes in emotion-related memory and judgment. The individuals who listened to their own self-selected music all demonstrated sadness; but for those who listened to unfamiliar sad music, only empathic participants were affected.

"Avoid sad music to skip the blues."

Finnish researchers conducted a study to determine the effect of sad music on emotions, and what role personality plays in our emotional response to such music. Jonna Vuoskoski of the University of Jyväskylä, Finland led the research on 120 participants, who were randomly assigned to either:

  • Listen to unfamiliar sad or neutral music
  • Listen to self-selected sad music
  • Recall a sad event and write about it

The emotions induced were measured as objectively as possible, using a word recall task and a judgment task where participants rated the emotions expressed in pictures of different facial expressions.

Researchers said that because sad memories are often associated with familiar melancholy music, it evokes more sadness. Vuoskoski said that for the empathic people, they may be more sensitive to music-induced emotions whether memories are connected or not, and that the study helps explain why music affects some people more strongly than others.

In spite of the evoked sadness, listening to sad music was also found to be enjoyable. The sadness evoked by music was not experienced as a negative emotion, the way everyday life sadness generally is.

Findings were published in the January 2012 issue of the journal Psychology of Aesthetics, Creativity, and the Arts.

Last Updated:
February 19, 2012