After a breakup, should you wallow in your misery by listening to sad music, or should you try to lift your spirits by listening to happy music? Across three experiments, people who had recently experienced interpersonal loss, like a breakup, preferred music that reinforced their current mood (sadness) rather than elevated it.1 For example, in their third study, the researchers randomly assigned half of the participants to write about an interpersonal loss, like a lost love, breakup, or death of a loved one, while the other half of participants wrote about a non-interpersonal loss (like an academic or career-related loss). After thinking about a non-interpersonal loss, people preferred cheerful music (click here for a feel-good tune), but following interpersonal losses, participants preferred sad music (click here if you were just dumped). So it seems that sometimes we use music to raise our spirits, but when it comes to breakups and lost relationships, we surround ourselves with more sadness.
Read more about music and relationships here:
- “Soul Meets Body” – How Music and Relationships are Connected
- I Need to See Your iPod Before We Can Go Out
- The Music of Relationships
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1Lee, C. J., Andrade, E. B., & Palmer, S. E. (in press). Interpersonal relationships and preferences for mood-congruence in aesthetic experiences. Journal of Consumer Research.