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Enjoying Sad Music: Paradox or Parallel Processes?

Schubert E - Front Hum Neurosci (2016)

Bottom Line: But compensation brings us no closer to explaining the paradox because it does not explain how experiencing sadness itself is enjoyed.In an aesthetic context sadness retains its negative SF but the aversive, negative MAT is inhibited, leaving sadness to still be experienced as a negative valanced emotion, while contributing to the overall positive MAT.Individual differences, mood and previous experiences mediate the degree to which the aversive aspects of MAT are inhibited according to this Parallel Processing Hypothesis (PPH).

View Article: PubMed Central - PubMed

Affiliation: Empirical Musicology Laboratory, School of the Arts and Media, University of New South Wales Sydney, NSW, Australia.

ABSTRACT
Enjoyment of negative emotions in music is seen by many as a paradox. This article argues that the paradox exists because it is difficult to view the process that generates enjoyment as being part of the same system that also generates the subjective negative feeling. Compensation theories explain the paradox as the compensation of a negative emotion by the concomitant presence of one or more positive emotions. But compensation brings us no closer to explaining the paradox because it does not explain how experiencing sadness itself is enjoyed. The solution proposed is that an emotion is determined by three critical processes-labeled motivational action tendency (MAT), subjective feeling (SF) and Appraisal. For many emotions the MAT and SF processes are coupled in valence. For example, happiness has positive MAT and positive SF, annoyance has negative MAT and negative SF. However, it is argued that in an aesthetic context, such as listening to music, emotion processes can become decoupled. The decoupling is controlled by the Appraisal process, which can assess if the context of the sadness is real-life (where coupling occurs) or aesthetic (where decoupling can occur). In an aesthetic context sadness retains its negative SF but the aversive, negative MAT is inhibited, leaving sadness to still be experienced as a negative valanced emotion, while contributing to the overall positive MAT. Individual differences, mood and previous experiences mediate the degree to which the aversive aspects of MAT are inhibited according to this Parallel Processing Hypothesis (PPH). The reason for hesitancy in considering or testing PPH, as well as the preponderance of research on sadness at the exclusion of other negative emotions, are discussed.

No MeSH data available.


Related in: MedlinePlus

Parallel processes network model of emotion. The figure shows a portion of a “network” for a sample emotion, with the links around an emotion being the synchronized cluster of processes activated by the functions of the component process model of emotion. It also shows how context (one or other of the dashed circles, being part of the appraisal process 1) influences the nature of the action tendency (which will be one process from the two dotted circles that together control process 3). The emotion is part of a much larger network (as indicated by the incoming arrows). Aesthetic context inhibits aversion/hostility action tendency, indicated by the dot (not arrow) terminator. If the sample emotion is anger, or if the listener has low trait absorption, the aesthetic context appraisal will not form an inhibitory link to the aversion/hostility tendencies, contrary to the case indicated in the figure. However, if the emotion is sadness induced by music and the individual has high trait absorption, the aversion/hostility action tendency process is inhibited. A transmitting (non inhibited) arrow link does not assure that a process to which it connects will be activated, but simply enables activation. Verbal labels for the emotion, past autobiographical associations and so on are included in the Appraisal subsystem for convenience. But associations and dispositions could also be represented by external links. The attraction action tendency of process three may be redundant, hence gray shading (see text). The figure demonstrates the parallel processes model of emotion which is based on Scherer’s component process theory of emotion, and the layout is inspired by Bower’s (1981) associative network theory of memory and emotion.
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Figure 1: Parallel processes network model of emotion. The figure shows a portion of a “network” for a sample emotion, with the links around an emotion being the synchronized cluster of processes activated by the functions of the component process model of emotion. It also shows how context (one or other of the dashed circles, being part of the appraisal process 1) influences the nature of the action tendency (which will be one process from the two dotted circles that together control process 3). The emotion is part of a much larger network (as indicated by the incoming arrows). Aesthetic context inhibits aversion/hostility action tendency, indicated by the dot (not arrow) terminator. If the sample emotion is anger, or if the listener has low trait absorption, the aesthetic context appraisal will not form an inhibitory link to the aversion/hostility tendencies, contrary to the case indicated in the figure. However, if the emotion is sadness induced by music and the individual has high trait absorption, the aversion/hostility action tendency process is inhibited. A transmitting (non inhibited) arrow link does not assure that a process to which it connects will be activated, but simply enables activation. Verbal labels for the emotion, past autobiographical associations and so on are included in the Appraisal subsystem for convenience. But associations and dispositions could also be represented by external links. The attraction action tendency of process three may be redundant, hence gray shading (see text). The figure demonstrates the parallel processes model of emotion which is based on Scherer’s component process theory of emotion, and the layout is inspired by Bower’s (1981) associative network theory of memory and emotion.

Mentions: The model can be adapted and applied to the problem at hand. It is hypothesized that the appraisal component (1) assesses, among other things, the context in which a stimulus appears. For now, I will limit context to two kinds: aesthetic (e.g., listening to music) and real life (those experienced in day to day life, including episodes of potential or actual distress, which Scherer, 2004 refers to as “utlilatarian”). The idea that context can manipulate the interpretation and experience of emotion has roots in the work of Schachter and Singer (1962). Their research demonstrated a dissociation between what they referred to as physiological and cognitive components of emotion: “It is the cognition which determines whether the state of physiological arousal will be labeled as “anger,” “joy,” “fear,” or whatever (p. 380). Scherer maintains this cognitive component in his model, and this component is to be understood as being the context detector. That is, in the present study context, via the cognitive appraisal component, determines whether an emotion is to be interpreted as having a positive or negative action tendency. The subjective emotional experience component is usually coupled with the motivational action tendency (component 3, in Table 1, being either negative [aversion/hostility] or positive [attraction]), but they do not have to be coupled. According to the hypothesis, the evaluation of an aesthetic context (via process 1) allows those emotions more susceptible to change in “direction of action” function (of component 3) to be dissociated. I will argue that sadness is one such emotion, although to date, there appear to be no explicit empirical accounts in the emotion literature of a dissociation between subjective emotional experience and action tendency based on context. This parallel processes interpretation is presented in Figure 1 in a form inspired by Bower’s (1981) associative network theory, but here the network is built around the five processes.


Enjoying Sad Music: Paradox or Parallel Processes?

Schubert E - Front Hum Neurosci (2016)

Parallel processes network model of emotion. The figure shows a portion of a “network” for a sample emotion, with the links around an emotion being the synchronized cluster of processes activated by the functions of the component process model of emotion. It also shows how context (one or other of the dashed circles, being part of the appraisal process 1) influences the nature of the action tendency (which will be one process from the two dotted circles that together control process 3). The emotion is part of a much larger network (as indicated by the incoming arrows). Aesthetic context inhibits aversion/hostility action tendency, indicated by the dot (not arrow) terminator. If the sample emotion is anger, or if the listener has low trait absorption, the aesthetic context appraisal will not form an inhibitory link to the aversion/hostility tendencies, contrary to the case indicated in the figure. However, if the emotion is sadness induced by music and the individual has high trait absorption, the aversion/hostility action tendency process is inhibited. A transmitting (non inhibited) arrow link does not assure that a process to which it connects will be activated, but simply enables activation. Verbal labels for the emotion, past autobiographical associations and so on are included in the Appraisal subsystem for convenience. But associations and dispositions could also be represented by external links. The attraction action tendency of process three may be redundant, hence gray shading (see text). The figure demonstrates the parallel processes model of emotion which is based on Scherer’s component process theory of emotion, and the layout is inspired by Bower’s (1981) associative network theory of memory and emotion.
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Related In: Results  -  Collection

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Figure 1: Parallel processes network model of emotion. The figure shows a portion of a “network” for a sample emotion, with the links around an emotion being the synchronized cluster of processes activated by the functions of the component process model of emotion. It also shows how context (one or other of the dashed circles, being part of the appraisal process 1) influences the nature of the action tendency (which will be one process from the two dotted circles that together control process 3). The emotion is part of a much larger network (as indicated by the incoming arrows). Aesthetic context inhibits aversion/hostility action tendency, indicated by the dot (not arrow) terminator. If the sample emotion is anger, or if the listener has low trait absorption, the aesthetic context appraisal will not form an inhibitory link to the aversion/hostility tendencies, contrary to the case indicated in the figure. However, if the emotion is sadness induced by music and the individual has high trait absorption, the aversion/hostility action tendency process is inhibited. A transmitting (non inhibited) arrow link does not assure that a process to which it connects will be activated, but simply enables activation. Verbal labels for the emotion, past autobiographical associations and so on are included in the Appraisal subsystem for convenience. But associations and dispositions could also be represented by external links. The attraction action tendency of process three may be redundant, hence gray shading (see text). The figure demonstrates the parallel processes model of emotion which is based on Scherer’s component process theory of emotion, and the layout is inspired by Bower’s (1981) associative network theory of memory and emotion.
Mentions: The model can be adapted and applied to the problem at hand. It is hypothesized that the appraisal component (1) assesses, among other things, the context in which a stimulus appears. For now, I will limit context to two kinds: aesthetic (e.g., listening to music) and real life (those experienced in day to day life, including episodes of potential or actual distress, which Scherer, 2004 refers to as “utlilatarian”). The idea that context can manipulate the interpretation and experience of emotion has roots in the work of Schachter and Singer (1962). Their research demonstrated a dissociation between what they referred to as physiological and cognitive components of emotion: “It is the cognition which determines whether the state of physiological arousal will be labeled as “anger,” “joy,” “fear,” or whatever (p. 380). Scherer maintains this cognitive component in his model, and this component is to be understood as being the context detector. That is, in the present study context, via the cognitive appraisal component, determines whether an emotion is to be interpreted as having a positive or negative action tendency. The subjective emotional experience component is usually coupled with the motivational action tendency (component 3, in Table 1, being either negative [aversion/hostility] or positive [attraction]), but they do not have to be coupled. According to the hypothesis, the evaluation of an aesthetic context (via process 1) allows those emotions more susceptible to change in “direction of action” function (of component 3) to be dissociated. I will argue that sadness is one such emotion, although to date, there appear to be no explicit empirical accounts in the emotion literature of a dissociation between subjective emotional experience and action tendency based on context. This parallel processes interpretation is presented in Figure 1 in a form inspired by Bower’s (1981) associative network theory, but here the network is built around the five processes.

Bottom Line: But compensation brings us no closer to explaining the paradox because it does not explain how experiencing sadness itself is enjoyed.In an aesthetic context sadness retains its negative SF but the aversive, negative MAT is inhibited, leaving sadness to still be experienced as a negative valanced emotion, while contributing to the overall positive MAT.Individual differences, mood and previous experiences mediate the degree to which the aversive aspects of MAT are inhibited according to this Parallel Processing Hypothesis (PPH).

View Article: PubMed Central - PubMed

Affiliation: Empirical Musicology Laboratory, School of the Arts and Media, University of New South Wales Sydney, NSW, Australia.

ABSTRACT
Enjoyment of negative emotions in music is seen by many as a paradox. This article argues that the paradox exists because it is difficult to view the process that generates enjoyment as being part of the same system that also generates the subjective negative feeling. Compensation theories explain the paradox as the compensation of a negative emotion by the concomitant presence of one or more positive emotions. But compensation brings us no closer to explaining the paradox because it does not explain how experiencing sadness itself is enjoyed. The solution proposed is that an emotion is determined by three critical processes-labeled motivational action tendency (MAT), subjective feeling (SF) and Appraisal. For many emotions the MAT and SF processes are coupled in valence. For example, happiness has positive MAT and positive SF, annoyance has negative MAT and negative SF. However, it is argued that in an aesthetic context, such as listening to music, emotion processes can become decoupled. The decoupling is controlled by the Appraisal process, which can assess if the context of the sadness is real-life (where coupling occurs) or aesthetic (where decoupling can occur). In an aesthetic context sadness retains its negative SF but the aversive, negative MAT is inhibited, leaving sadness to still be experienced as a negative valanced emotion, while contributing to the overall positive MAT. Individual differences, mood and previous experiences mediate the degree to which the aversive aspects of MAT are inhibited according to this Parallel Processing Hypothesis (PPH). The reason for hesitancy in considering or testing PPH, as well as the preponderance of research on sadness at the exclusion of other negative emotions, are discussed.

No MeSH data available.


Related in: MedlinePlus