New research suggest an aesthetic experience that reflects a person’s mood can help calm emotional turmoil. Thus, sad music or books may help someone get through heartbreak.
“Emotional experiences of aesthetic products are important to our happiness and well-being. Music, movies, paintings, or novels that are compatible with our current mood and feelings, akin to an empathic friend, are more appreciated when we experience broken or failing relationships,” write the study authors.
The sadness and grief following a broken relationship is part of the human condition — a time when we look for a surrogate to replace the lost personal bond.
Prior research has reported that individuals in a negative mood prefer pleasant, positive aesthetic experiences (cheerful music, or comedies) to counter their negative feelings.
However, under certain circumstances, consumers in negative moods might choose aesthetic experiences consistent with their mood (sad music, or tear-jerking dramas) even when more pleasant alternatives are also available.
In the new research individuals were presented with various frustrating situations and asked to rate angry music relative to joyful or relaxing music.
Researchers discovered people liked angry music more when they were frustrated by interpersonal violations (being interrupted; someone always being late) than by impersonal hassles (no internet connection; natural disaster).
In another study, participants were asked to recall experiences involving loss.
Researchers discovered a preference for sad music was significantly higher when an individual had experienced an interpersonal loss (losing a personal relationship) versus an impersonal loss (losing a competition).
Investigators say the study shows that interpersonal relationships influence a preference for aesthetic experiences.
That is, individuals seek and experience emotional companionship with music, films, novels, and the fine arts as a substitute for lost and troubled relationships.
The study is published in the Journal of Consumer Research.