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Take a Sad Song, And Make Mood Better

Take a Sad Song, And Make Mood BetterUK researchers have discovered that music may have a paradoxical effect on a person’s mood, with “beautiful but sad” music lifting mood when the listener is feeling unhappy.

The study involved an investigation on the effects of what the researchers described as Self-Identified Sad Music (SISM) on people’s moods.

Researchers analyzed an individual’s reasons for choosing a particular piece of music when they were experiencing sadness, and the effect it had on them.

The study identified a number of motives for sad people to select a particular piece of music they perceive as “sad,” but found that in some cases their goal in listening is not necessarily to enhance mood.

In fact, choosing music identified as ‘beautiful’ was the only strategy that directly predicted mood enhancement, the researchers found.

In the research, 220 people were asked to recall an adverse emotional event they had experienced, and the music they listened to afterwards which they felt portrayed sadness.

The study followed earlier research from the same team that identified that people do choose to listen to sad music when they’re feeling sad.

Annemieke van den Tol, Ph.D., lecturer in Social Psychology at Kent’s School of Psychology, explained that the study found that three factors primarily influenced music choice.

First, is that a particular piece of music may trigger the memory for a particular event or time; second, that the piece of music selected has high perceived high aesthetic value (is “beautiful”); and third, that the music conveys a particular message.

She said: “We found in our research that people’s music choice is linked to the individual’s own expectations for listening to music and its effects on them.

“The results showed that if an individual has intended to achieve mood enhancement through listening to ‘sad’ music, this was in fact often achieved by first thinking about their situation or being distracted, rather than directly through listening to the music chosen.”

Van den Tol said “where respondents indicated they had chosen music with the intention of triggering memories, this had a negative impact on creating a better mood.”

“The only selection strategy that was found to directly predict mood enhancement was where the music was perceived by the listener to have high aesthetic value,” she said.

Source: University of Kent

Young woman listening to music photo by shutterstock.

Take a Sad Song, And Make Mood Better

Rick Nauert PhD

Rick Nauert, PhDDr. Rick Nauert has over 25 years experience in clinical, administrative and academic healthcare. He is currently an associate professor for Rocky Mountain University of Health Professionals doctoral program in health promotion and wellness. Dr. Nauert began his career as a clinical physical therapist and served as a regional manager for a publicly traded multidisciplinary rehabilitation agency for 12 years. He has masters degrees in health-fitness management and healthcare administration and a doctoral degree from The University of Texas at Austin focused on health care informatics, health administration, health education and health policy. His research efforts included the area of telehealth with a specialty in disease management.

APA Reference
Nauert PhD, R. (2018). Take a Sad Song, And Make Mood Better. Psych Central. Retrieved on December 3, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Aug 2018 (Originally: 20 Feb 2014)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Aug 2018
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