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Sad Songs May Actually Elicit Pleasant Emotions

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If you've ever gotten weepy listening to Coldplay's "Fix You" (Just us?), new research may have an explanation for why.

Scientists at the Tokyo University of the Arts and the RIKEN Brain Science Institute in Japan found that listening to sad music can actually trigger positive emotions. They explained that sadness triggered from art is not the same kind of sadness triggered by an actual sad event, and in fact could actually feel pleasant.

"Emotion experienced by music has no direct danger or harm unlike the emotion experienced in everyday life. Therefore, we can even enjoy unpleasant emotion such as sadness," researchers wrote in the study. "If we suffer from unpleasant emotion evoked through daily life, sad music might be helpful to alleviate negative emotion."

The small new study, published in the journal Frontiers in Psychology, included 44 people, some of whom were musicians and some who had no special training in music. The study participants listened to a happy piece of music -- Granados's Allegro de Concierto in G major -- in major and minor keys, in order to combat the "happy effect" songs composed in major keys tend to have. They also listened to two "sad" pieces of music, Glinka's "La Séparation" in F minor and Blumenfeld's Etude "Sur Mer" in G minor.

Researchers had the study participants rate 62 different emotion-related words and phrases when they listened to the different pieces of music, based on the emotions they perceived in the music, as well as the emotions they felt when listening to the music.

Indeed, a discrepancy was found between emotions perceived and emotions felt while listening to the sad music. Emotions perceived were sadder and more tragic, while the actual emotions felt were more romantic and less tragic.

Earlier this month, HuffPost Women reported on a forthcoming finding in the Journal of Consumer Research, showing that sad or angry music is preferred listening after a negative experience involving a person (such as a break-up). HuffPost Women reported:

The researchers found that when the negative situation involved another person -- as in a breakup, for instance -- participants strongly preferred an empathetic friend and sad music. Two further experiments confirmed that participants experiencing emotional distress related to other people were much more likely to prefer sad music than those experiencing distress from issues unrelated to other people. Just like you probably don't want to be surrounded by perky people when your heart is broken, you don't want to hear Selena Gomez telling you to "come and get it."

For an explanation as to why sad songs can make us cry, click over to HuffPost Arts & Culture.

Are you an aficionado of sad music, or do you prefer more upbeat tunes? Tell us in the comments!

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