The research probed the effects of Self-Identified Sad Music (SISM) on people’s moods – paying particular attention to their 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 at the universities of Kent and Limerick in Britain.
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.
It followed earlier research from the same team that identified that people do choose to listen to sad music when they’re feeling sad.
“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,” said Annemieke van den Tol, lecturer in social psychology at Kent’s school of psychology.
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.