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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

Two component emotional valence space. The space demonstrates how some felt emotions are coupled along the two dimensions, regardless of context, exemplified by sample emotions A and B, which could be happiness (positive subjective feeling (SF) and positive motivational tendency) and annoyance (negative SF and negative motivational tendency) respectively. However some emotions, such as C, are flexible along the motivational tendency component in that they can move along that component according to context. For example, if sample emotion C is sadness, in an aesthetic context it will not be in the negative motivational tendency region, but still retain its negative SF. The flexibility is mediated by individual differences (such as trait absorption) and context (aesthetic vs. real life). The motivational tendency component can be understood in a number of ways, including level of enjoyment, pleasantness, preference, attraction and liking. The SF component is related to emotional valence as shown in two dimensional (arousal, valence) emotion space (e.g., Russell, 1980), and is generally stable for any particular discrete emotion, regardless of context. If the model is correct, it will explain some of the confusion in understanding the apparent paradox of enjoying sadness in music. Compensation theories, for example, assume that the sadness of an emotion (e.g., at B) is subtracted from simultaneous happiness (e.g., at A), producing a lower residual negative output. Thus, for some researchers, motivation tendency and SF are coupled (treated as the same dimension). The present model suggests that they can be dissociated in some cases based on the context. Dotted line indicates negative motivation tendency. The region to the right consists of aesthetic emotions and real life emotions. The region to the left consists of real life emotions only. Aesthetic pleasure can be calculated not by summing the contribution along the SF component, as compensation theories do, but summing contributions along the positive motivation tendency. This explains how sadness can be experienced (negative SF), but at the same time adding to the pleasure (positive motivation tendency).
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Figure 2: Two component emotional valence space. The space demonstrates how some felt emotions are coupled along the two dimensions, regardless of context, exemplified by sample emotions A and B, which could be happiness (positive subjective feeling (SF) and positive motivational tendency) and annoyance (negative SF and negative motivational tendency) respectively. However some emotions, such as C, are flexible along the motivational tendency component in that they can move along that component according to context. For example, if sample emotion C is sadness, in an aesthetic context it will not be in the negative motivational tendency region, but still retain its negative SF. The flexibility is mediated by individual differences (such as trait absorption) and context (aesthetic vs. real life). The motivational tendency component can be understood in a number of ways, including level of enjoyment, pleasantness, preference, attraction and liking. The SF component is related to emotional valence as shown in two dimensional (arousal, valence) emotion space (e.g., Russell, 1980), and is generally stable for any particular discrete emotion, regardless of context. If the model is correct, it will explain some of the confusion in understanding the apparent paradox of enjoying sadness in music. Compensation theories, for example, assume that the sadness of an emotion (e.g., at B) is subtracted from simultaneous happiness (e.g., at A), producing a lower residual negative output. Thus, for some researchers, motivation tendency and SF are coupled (treated as the same dimension). The present model suggests that they can be dissociated in some cases based on the context. Dotted line indicates negative motivation tendency. The region to the right consists of aesthetic emotions and real life emotions. The region to the left consists of real life emotions only. Aesthetic pleasure can be calculated not by summing the contribution along the SF component, as compensation theories do, but summing contributions along the positive motivation tendency. This explains how sadness can be experienced (negative SF), but at the same time adding to the pleasure (positive motivation tendency).

Mentions: One way of falsifying PPH is to identify symmetric component pairings, namely negative emotions with hated music (a non-aesthetic context) and positive emotions with loved music (possibly an aesthetic context), and then demonstrate statistically no positive emotions in response to hated music and no negative emotions in response to loved music. Figure 2 outlines the hypothesis using a two component emotional valence space. The diagonal arrow falsifies the hypothesis, while the horizontal line supports it. Evidence of an exclusively diagonal locus of any emotion would indicate that the two components (feelings and motivation) are not dissociable, and PPH could be rejected. Furthermore, the dissociation might be mediated by individual differences, as mentioned above. In that case, the symmetry should be clearest for people with a low propensity to uncouple their motivational tendency process from their SF process, such as people low in trait absorption.


Enjoying Sad Music: Paradox or Parallel Processes?

Schubert E - Front Hum Neurosci (2016)

Two component emotional valence space. The space demonstrates how some felt emotions are coupled along the two dimensions, regardless of context, exemplified by sample emotions A and B, which could be happiness (positive subjective feeling (SF) and positive motivational tendency) and annoyance (negative SF and negative motivational tendency) respectively. However some emotions, such as C, are flexible along the motivational tendency component in that they can move along that component according to context. For example, if sample emotion C is sadness, in an aesthetic context it will not be in the negative motivational tendency region, but still retain its negative SF. The flexibility is mediated by individual differences (such as trait absorption) and context (aesthetic vs. real life). The motivational tendency component can be understood in a number of ways, including level of enjoyment, pleasantness, preference, attraction and liking. The SF component is related to emotional valence as shown in two dimensional (arousal, valence) emotion space (e.g., Russell, 1980), and is generally stable for any particular discrete emotion, regardless of context. If the model is correct, it will explain some of the confusion in understanding the apparent paradox of enjoying sadness in music. Compensation theories, for example, assume that the sadness of an emotion (e.g., at B) is subtracted from simultaneous happiness (e.g., at A), producing a lower residual negative output. Thus, for some researchers, motivation tendency and SF are coupled (treated as the same dimension). The present model suggests that they can be dissociated in some cases based on the context. Dotted line indicates negative motivation tendency. The region to the right consists of aesthetic emotions and real life emotions. The region to the left consists of real life emotions only. Aesthetic pleasure can be calculated not by summing the contribution along the SF component, as compensation theories do, but summing contributions along the positive motivation tendency. This explains how sadness can be experienced (negative SF), but at the same time adding to the pleasure (positive motivation tendency).
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Related In: Results  -  Collection

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Show All Figures
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Figure 2: Two component emotional valence space. The space demonstrates how some felt emotions are coupled along the two dimensions, regardless of context, exemplified by sample emotions A and B, which could be happiness (positive subjective feeling (SF) and positive motivational tendency) and annoyance (negative SF and negative motivational tendency) respectively. However some emotions, such as C, are flexible along the motivational tendency component in that they can move along that component according to context. For example, if sample emotion C is sadness, in an aesthetic context it will not be in the negative motivational tendency region, but still retain its negative SF. The flexibility is mediated by individual differences (such as trait absorption) and context (aesthetic vs. real life). The motivational tendency component can be understood in a number of ways, including level of enjoyment, pleasantness, preference, attraction and liking. The SF component is related to emotional valence as shown in two dimensional (arousal, valence) emotion space (e.g., Russell, 1980), and is generally stable for any particular discrete emotion, regardless of context. If the model is correct, it will explain some of the confusion in understanding the apparent paradox of enjoying sadness in music. Compensation theories, for example, assume that the sadness of an emotion (e.g., at B) is subtracted from simultaneous happiness (e.g., at A), producing a lower residual negative output. Thus, for some researchers, motivation tendency and SF are coupled (treated as the same dimension). The present model suggests that they can be dissociated in some cases based on the context. Dotted line indicates negative motivation tendency. The region to the right consists of aesthetic emotions and real life emotions. The region to the left consists of real life emotions only. Aesthetic pleasure can be calculated not by summing the contribution along the SF component, as compensation theories do, but summing contributions along the positive motivation tendency. This explains how sadness can be experienced (negative SF), but at the same time adding to the pleasure (positive motivation tendency).
Mentions: One way of falsifying PPH is to identify symmetric component pairings, namely negative emotions with hated music (a non-aesthetic context) and positive emotions with loved music (possibly an aesthetic context), and then demonstrate statistically no positive emotions in response to hated music and no negative emotions in response to loved music. Figure 2 outlines the hypothesis using a two component emotional valence space. The diagonal arrow falsifies the hypothesis, while the horizontal line supports it. Evidence of an exclusively diagonal locus of any emotion would indicate that the two components (feelings and motivation) are not dissociable, and PPH could be rejected. Furthermore, the dissociation might be mediated by individual differences, as mentioned above. In that case, the symmetry should be clearest for people with a low propensity to uncouple their motivational tendency process from their SF process, such as people low in trait absorption.

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