Why We Listen to Sad-Sounding Music

Philosophical Perspectives, Psychological Functions and Underlying Brain Mechanisms

Authored by: Liila Taruffi , Stefan Koelsch

The Routledge Companion to Music, Mind and Well-Being

Print publication date:  December  2018
Online publication date:  December  2018

Print ISBN: 9781138057760
eBook ISBN: 9781315164717
Adobe ISBN:


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Although sadness is typically described as a negative emotion, in esthetic contexts it is paradoxically associated with pleasurable experiences. Here, we take an interdisciplinary approach to the investigation of sadness in music, accounting for philosophical, psychological and neuroimaging approaches. We offer a comprehensive framework explaining how sad music can become pleasurable and what motivates people to seek sad music. The evidence discussed throughout this chapter shows that pleasure in response to sad music is related to different psychological benefits and is the outcome of a complex interplay of personality traits, current mood and contextual variables.

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