Date of Award
Master of Science (MS)
Department of Psychology
Jeffrey H. Kahn
Past literature has suggested that individuals use the emotion regulation strategies of
catharsis, emotional support, understanding emotions, and mood congruency when deciding to listen to sad music when feeling sad (Friedman et al., 2012; Garrido & Schubert, 2013; Sedikides, 1992; Taylor & Friedman, 2015; van Goethem & Sloboda, 2011). This thesis sought to confirm this by comparing these four strategies to revival, another emotion regulation strategy that uses happy music instead of sad music.
The final sample of participants consisted of 122 undergraduate and graduate students at a Midwestern university. Participants completed questionnaires designed to measure how they typically regulate their emotions by listening to music, why they typically choose to listen to sad music, and a measure of current sadness before watching a sad film clip. After this clip, participants rated their feelings of sadness again and were randomly assigned one of the five emotion regulation strategies to use when selecting a song of their choice to listen to. After listening to music, participants completed additional questionnaires used to measure current sadness for a final time, their reasons for selecting their song of choice, and their satisfaction with their song choice. External raters were also utilized to rate the emotionality, arousal, and speed of the participant selected songs.
Results indicated that all participants, regardless of emotion regulation strategy used, experienced significant decreases in feelings of sadness after listening to their songs of choice. There were no significant differences in how satisfied participants were with their song choices. Based on ratings provided by the external raters, song choices differed in that songs chosen by participants in the catharsis, emotional support, understanding emotions, and mood congruency conditions were rated as significantly sadder, calmer, and slower than songs chosen by participants in the revival condition.
These results suggest that catharsis, emotional support, understanding emotions, and mood congruency are emotion regulation strategies that are used when experiencing feelings of sadness and a decision is made to listen to sad music. Future research would benefit from examining these emotion regulation strategies in other sadness-inducing situations and identifying any differences in their success.
Ladd, Kendall M., "“where Words Fail, Music Speaks”: Emotion Regulation Strategies Using Music When Experiencing Sadness" (2020). Theses and Dissertations. 1199.