It may sound counter-intuitive, but listening to sad music actually tends to evoke strongly positive and romantic emotions that can be uplifting, according to a new psychological study by Japanese mental-health experts.
The findings, published in the journal Frontiers in Psychology
, are based on experiments involving 44 volunteers who were asked to listen two pieces of sad music and one piece of happy music. Participants were then asked to rate their perception of the music and their own emotional state.
The researchers — led by Ai Kawakami and colleagues from Tokyo University of the Arts and the RIKEN Brain Science Institute, Japan — found participants tended to feel more uplifted after listening to the sad music, perhaps because they perceived the music as more tragic than they felt themselves while listening to it.
The experts also suggested that sadness experienced through music and the arts — unlike real sadness in daily life — actually feels pleasant, "possibly because it does not pose an actual threat to our safety."
They even noted such experiences could help people to deal with negative emotions in daily life.
"Emotion experienced by music has no direct danger or harm unlike the emotion experienced in everyday life," they concluded. "Therefore, we can even enjoy unpleasant emotion such as sadness. If we suffer from unpleasant emotion evoked through daily life, sad music might be helpful to alleviate negative emotion."
The sad pieces of music included Glinka's "La Séparation" in F minor and Blumenfeld's Etude "Sur Mer" in G minor. The happy music piece was Granados's Allegro de Concierto in G major.
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