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Why Do We Hearken to Unhappy Songs?


Within 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 members prompts that described a conversational interplay by 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 folks really feel extra related to 1 one other in dialog: love, pleasure, loneliness, unhappiness, ecstasy, calmness, sorrow.

Mario Attie-Picker, a thinker at Loyola College Chicago who helped lead the analysis, discovered the outcomes compelling. After contemplating the information, he proposed a comparatively easy concept: Possibly we take heed to music not for an emotional response — many topics reported that unhappy music, albeit inventive, was not significantly pleasing — however for the sense of connection to others. Utilized to the paradox of unhappy music: Our love of the music isn’t a direct appreciation of unhappiness, 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 persons are extra more likely to be moved by unfamiliar unhappy music. “They’re keen to interact in this type of fictional unhappiness that the music is bringing them,” he mentioned. These folks additionally show extra important hormonal modifications in response to unhappy music.

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

One after the other, the researchers acknowledged the complexity of their topic, and the restrictions of present work. After which Dr. Attie-Picker provided a much less philosophical argument for his or her outcomes: “It simply feels proper,” he mentioned.

Audio produced by Adrienne Hurst.

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