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The science behind why we like listening to sad songs

The science behind why we like listening to sad songs

There's a reason why we enjoy heartbreak hits.

Music is the spice of life.

It accompanies us through our mundane chores, morning commutes, road trips and even work habits.

But, ever wondered why we want to listen to sad songs?

They certainly don't make us happy, so why would we listen to songs that make us feel sad?

Well, science has spoken - and we may have an answer.

Pheelings Media / Getty
Pheelings Media / Getty

A new study suggests that we listen to sad music simply because we find pleasure in the sadness it conjures up.

'I guess part of being human is that we just can’t cope with the idea that there’s something strangely pleasurable about negative emotion,' said Emery Schubert at the University of New South Wales in Australia.

'But what about people who actually just say: "Well, the reason I really love this piece of music is because it makes me sad?" Who’s to say that they’re wrong?'

Schubert asked 50 people to think about a piece of music they love but also find sad.

The answers ranged all the way from composers like Beethoven to popular artists like Taylor Swift.

Then, participants filled in an online questionnaire about the emotions they experienced while listening to their chosen piece.

They were also asked to imagine the music without the sad vibe.

Overall, 82% said removing the sadness would make them appreciate the music less, suggesting that sadness adds to their enjoyment.

In a follow-up of the experiment, Schubert asked another 53 people to identify a piece of music they love and find 'moving.'

These participants widely reported feeling sad while listening to their chosen piece, even though they enjoyed listening to it.

Olga Pankova / Getty
Olga Pankova / Getty

From these findings, Schubert said we often combine the feelings of being 'sad' and 'moved' and therefore, create a direct link between sadness and overall pleasure.

However, some experts have questioned the study's accuracy.

Tuomas Eerola at Durham University doubts if we can 'remove' sadness from a song that is considered sad.

'The whole study rests on an assumption that listeners are capable of perfect dissection of their emotional causes from each other concerning their loved music,' he said.

Meanwhile, another study found that people reported feelings of relaxation and peace after listening to sad instrumental music, whereas only highly empathic people recorded feeling deeply moved by such music.

Either way, I suppose it's all part of being human.

Featured Image Credit: Pheelings Media / Olga Pankova / Getty