Lee Rannals for redOrbit.com – Your Universe Online
Two separate studies have looked into how music influences our moods, whether to help lift our spirits or enable us to better cope with them.
Researchers from several universities writing in the Journal of Consumer Research say consumers experiencing problems with interpersonal relationships throw on sad music to match their moods. The team said in their article “Interpersonal Relationships and Preferences for Mood-Congruency in Aesthetic Experiences,” that individuals experiencing these relationship problems are more likely to prefer aesthetic experiences that reflect their negative mood.
For two studies, the researchers asked consumers to rate music or list their preferences during several different scenarios. In one study, consumers were presented with various frustrating situations and were then asked to rate how they felt about angry music compared to joyful or relaxing music. They reported that consumers liked angry music more if they were frustrated by interpersonal violations, such as being interrupted or someone always being late.
During the second study, the team asked the subjects to recall experiences involving interpersonal loss, such as losing a personal relationship. Not surprisingly, the participants showed a higher preference for sad music when they experienced an interpersonal loss.
“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,” the authors wrote.
“Interpersonal relationships influence consumer preference for aesthetic experiences. Consumers seek and experience emotional companionship with music, films, novels, and the fine arts as a substitute for lost and troubled relationships.”
In a separate study published in The Journal of Positive Psychology, scientists found that listening to happy music can also help to pick you up out of a blue funk. A team from the University of Missouri reported people can actively improve their moods by listening to more upbeat music.
“Our work provides support for what many people already do — listen to music to improve their moods,” said lead author Yuna Ferguson, who performed the study while she was an MU doctoral student in psychological science. “Although pursuing personal happiness may be thought of as a self-centered venture, research suggests that happiness relates to a higher probability of socially beneficial behavior, better physical health, higher income and greater relationship satisfaction.”
They found participants were able to improve their mood when listening to the upbeat music of Aaron Copland versus those who listened to the haunting, discordant melodies of Igor Stravinsky.
“Rather than focusing on how much happiness they´ve gained and engaging in that kind of mental calculation, people could focus more on enjoying their experience of the journey towards happiness and not get hung up on the destination,” said Ferguson.
Researchers at Glasgow Caledonian University are looking into using music as a potential prescription to treat emotional and physical pain. They believe it is important to promote the development of music-based therapies to tackle conditions like depressive illnesses. The scientists say doctors could put music on a prescription that is tailored to suit the needs of an individual.
“The impact of a piece of music on a person goes so much further than thinking that a fast tempo can lift a mood and a slow one can bring it down. Music expresses emotion as a result of many factors,” says audio engineering specialist Dr. Don Knox, project leader.
“These include the tone, structure and other technical characteristics of a piece. Lyrics can have a big impact too. But so can purely subjective factors: where or when you first heard it, whether you associate it with happy or sad events and so on. Our project is the first step towards taking all of these considerations and the way they interact with each other on board.”