Driving along a windy road, a sad song comes on the radio, breaking up the typically upbeat pop which is churned out minute after minute. The sun is shining, you are feeling happy but suddenly the interjection of this song changes the mood. Yet rather than switch over to something more upbeat, you let a melancholic wave wash over you. Oddly, the experience is enjoyable, but why?
There will be some people reading this, energetically shaking their head! If this is you, you are a “systemiser”. Basically this means that in terms of music you prefer to listen to something with a pattern, a system and typically adhering to rules. For those wiping tears away from their eyes, this can be blamed on your heightened empathy.
A new research has shown that the fascination of being “moved”, comes from an individual’s openness to emotions and feelings. A certain comfort of pleasure can be experienced by immersing ourselves in sad music.
In the study, over 100 people listened to an instrumental piece of music. The music was an unknown piece to ensure that it did not evoke any past emotions. Prior to listening to the music, the participants took part in a test to deem how empathic they seemed to be. The results showed that a persons empathy directly related to how much they were moved by the music.
And the research goes a little deeper. Music is increasingly being used as a therapy and the “reward” of listening to sad music, could be a biochemical reaction, similar to the serenity and peace which is experienced after a good cry. However the pleasure encountered is actually heightened, due to the absence of any actual upset or loss.
Whilst more research needs to be conducted in this area, the evidence concludes that allowing yourself to be transported into a world of tragedy and sorrow, may be just what your mind needs.