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Psychology and Mental Health

Chicago, USA
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Can sad music really make you sad? Indirect measures of affective states induced by music and autobiographical memories

Author(s): Vuoskoski JK, Eerola T

Abstract

The present study addressed music's disputed ability to induce genuine sadness in listeners by investigating whether listening to sad music can induce sadness-related effects on memory and judgment. Related aims were to explore how the different mechanisms of music-induced emotions are involved in sadness induced by familiar, self-selected music and unfamiliar, experimenter-selected music, and whether the susceptibility to music-induced sadness is associated with trait empathy. One hundred twenty participants were randomly assigned into four conditions with different tasks: listening to unfamiliar sad or neutral music, or to self-selected sad music, or recalling a sad autobiographical event and writing about it. The induced affective states were measured indirectly using a word recall task and a judgment task where participants rated the emotions expressed by pictures depicting facial expressions. The results indicate that listening to sad music can indeed induce changes in emotion-related memory and judgment. However, this effect depends, to some extent, on the music's relevance to the listener, as well as on the personality attributes of the listener. Trait empathy contributed to the susceptibility to sadness induced by unfamiliar music, while autobiographical memories contributed to sadness induced by self-selected music. 

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