Date of Award
Master of Science (MS)
Department of Psychology
Jeffrey H. Kahn
This thesis tested some of Levinson's (1997) ideas on why people like music that makes them sad. A path model of this effect was interpreted from Levinson's theory, and 5 of the paths were tested. These paths were that music would directly create a communion with the song, that happiness and sadness would mediate this effect, that absorption would moderate the direct path, that absorption would moderate the songs' ability to evoke the emotions, and that satisfaction would moderate the emotions' influence on liking the songs.
A pilot study was conducted to determine if the songs evoked their intended emotions. The pilot study included 6 songs: two fast, major songs to induce happiness; two repetitive songs intended to be neutral; and two slow, minor songs to evoke sadness. One song for each condition was retained for the primary study. All participants listened to all three songs in a counterbalanced order and completed a measure of absorption in a counterbalanced order.
The music did not directly cause a change in communication scores, but happiness mediated it. Sadness did not. Absorption did not moderate the direct path, either. It also did not moderate the songs' ability to evoke emotions. Satisfaction did notmoderate happiness's effect on liking, but it did moderate sadness's effect, where people with high satisfaction liked the song less as sadness increased. Satisfaction overall positively predicted liking the songs, regardless of the evoked emotion.
Only Levinson's (1997) reward of Savoring Feeling was supported in this study. The significant results suggest that nonmusical outcomes from unfamiliar music are directly related to the amount of happiness one feels from the music. Liking songs regardless of the emotional content increased as satisfaction increased. Therefore, liking a sad song may be a function on how much satisfaction one feels with the song as long as one does not feel too much sadness from the song.
Hogue, John, ""Take a Sad Song and Make It Better": Exploring Rewards Related to Liking Unfamiliar Sad Music" (2013). Theses and Dissertations. 43.