“…people with depression or specific personality traits, such as openness to experience and nostalgia-proneness, possess a greater tendency to prefer listening to sad music…”

Empathy (the capacity to experience emotions that match those of another person) and absorption (the ability to concentrate so much that awareness of the passage of time and of the external surroundings are lessened) have been found as strongly predictive of liking sad music.  In relation to these findings, a dissociation theory of aesthetic enjoyment has been proposed, according to which:

  • listeners with a propensity for absorption are able to dissociate or de-activate displeasure feelings in aesthetic context,

  • allowing the enjoyment of the emotionally intense stimuli while disregarding their negative content.

  • Other authors have argued for an even bolder explanation, such that sad music directly induces pleasant emotions by virtue of the vicarious nature of the musical artistic stimulus.

…an enhanced reactivity of the auditory cortex to unpleasant chords in musicians has been noticed in a neurophysiological study…

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