Music is a powerful tool to express emotions, but it also has the ability to elicit certain responses. Whether we need an energetic song to get us out of bed in the morning or a post-breakup anthem to help us feel like the fabulous individuals that we are, music can evoke all sorts of feelings. In fact, a new study published in the Frontiers in Psychology journal has concluded that one song in particular can make some people feel moved—and therefore showing that they're more emphatic.
Before arriving at this conclusion, researchers designed and conducted a series of tests to measure the effect of an instrumental track on subjects. The participants of the study included 102 people between the ages of 18 and 67. Next, the participants listened to an instrumental song called "Discover of the Camp." Apparently, past studies have used the same song to elicit feelings of sadness in participants—and we can see why.
Maybe it's the dramatic string instruments that basically tug at our own heartstrings.
After listening to the eight and a half minute long track, participants responded to multiple tests that were created specifically to measure empathy. Responses were then categorized into three groups: relaxing sadness (aka "positive, peaceful and relaxing emotional responses to sad music"), nervous sadness (defined by a sense of anxiety or fear) and moving sadness (described as "a complex and intense emotional experience, involving both aesthetic, enjoyable emotions and feelings of sadness").
Though the researchers found no relation between relaxing sadness and empathy, or nervous sadness and empathy, the final category suggested otherwise. According to Quartz, moving sadness had the most profound effect on a person's ability to show empathy.
"Those who were barely affected by the music scored low on questions measuring emotional responsiveness to other people, while the opposite held true for people who felt strongly about the music," Quartz said.
In other words, people who were emotionally impacted by the song indicated higher levels of emotional responsiveness. Because of this, they are more likely to be empathetic toward others.
"Music appreciation involves social cognition," said Tuomas Eerola, a music cognition professor at Durham University. "People sensitive and willing to empathize with the misfortune of another person—in this case represented by the sad music—are somehow rewarded by the process."
So basically, blasting sappy Adele and Celine Dion songs on repeat is a sign of an individual who is more in touch with their emotions and able to empathize with others. Please excuse us while we proudly play said artists on repeat.