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Home » Why Do We Like Sad Music?: Sandra Garrido at TEDxYouth@Sydney (Transcript)

Why Do We Like Sad Music?: Sandra Garrido at TEDxYouth@Sydney (Transcript)

Sandra Garrido – TRANSCRIPT

If you are an human being, chances are, one of your primary aims in life is to maximize your happiness. I did a quick search of Google books before I came here, I have found an astounding two and an half million books on the subject of happiness. When we are so interested in happiness, and we do everything that we can in daily life to avoid things that make us feel sad, why is it?

When it comes to music we actually seem to enjoy feeling sad. I will give you an example. (Music: piano introduction of “Someone Like You”, Adele) So that of course is a song that flew to the top of the charts within weeks of its release and it is known and loved by millions of people all around the world.

So why is it that songs like these are so popular? Why is it that we seem to enjoy feeling sad when we are listening to music? Well, that was the question that I set out to find the answer to, and along with my colleagues, we’ve interviewed probably thousands of people about why they are enjoying music like this.

We’ve also surveyed people and try to find out in-depth reasons about how people use music like this in their daily lives. And we’ve also done experiments where we’ve actually played sad music to people and then measure the effects on them. And what we actually found is that there is no single reason, there is no single answer to that question of why people like sad music. I’ll give you some examples of the kind of things that we’ve found out.

Firstly, some people have a really strong capacity for absorption, or the ability to get so immersed in what they’re doing that they completely lose track of time and the sense of where they are. These kind of people seem to be able to just really enjoy the emotional journey of the music, and they don’t experience any displeasure in the way that you would, if it was sadness triggered by real life events.

Another group of people are able to use the time listening to sad music to reflect on their own lives. I mean if you think about it, sadness is actually an adaptive emotion from an evolutionary perspective. It motivates us to think about our lives and think about things that might need changes and motivates us to make those changes. So people who have strong capacities to reflection, the very reflective people, they seem to have the ability to actually use the time when they are listening to sad music to process emotions that they might be going through and to think about how they can address the problems that might be triggering sadness in them.

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