Why Do I Cry When I Listen To Sad Music? Your Reaction Reveals A Lot About Your Personality, According To Science
We've all been there. You're alone in your room feeling glum, so what do you do? Turn on sad music and cry, of course. Though this might lead you to wonder why you cry when you listen to sad music in the first place. New research published in the scientific journal Frontiers of Psychology aims to explore this very question, and it turns out that your reaction to those moody tunes actually says a lot about your personality.
After all, there are a lot of different reasons you might turn on the waterworks when the soundtrack is right: Are you crying because you're sad to begin with, and somber music simply puts you in tune with your latent emotions? Or is there something about sad music that makes us want to cry, even if we were totally fine a few minutes before? When it comes to figuring out human psychology, we still have a lot left to learn. That's why it's so exciting when new research can analyze our reactions to not only each other, but things like art, media, and music.
The researchers for the current study claim that if you cry when you listen to music, you are far from over-sensitive; indeed, the trait you are most likely to have is a really good and valuable one: According to the study, if you cry when you listen to sad music, you are most likely super, super empathetic.
To conduct this study, researchers asked 102 participants to listen to a particular piece of music and answer questions describing their experience. Some participants listened to the music and showed minimal emotional effects. These same people scored low on questions measuring the emotional responsiveness to other people — emotional responsiveness basically referring to how well you understand and feel the emotions of those around you. On the other hand, people who had strong reactions to the music scored highly on emotional responsiveness, suggesting that they are more in-tune to the emotions of those around them.
For the curious, participants in the study listened to instrumental music, composed by Michael Kamen. If you ever watched HBO’s World War II miniseries Band of Brothers, you'll recognize the sad notes immediately, but if not, you can always listen to it here on YouTube. Warning: You (may) need tissues.
Empathy is a valuable trait in general. A study from Oxford University suggests that people who are empathetic are faster to help others, even when there's no reward in sight. It's also commonly understood that when it comes to relationships and friendships, empathy helps you better connect with and understand those around you.
If you struggle with empathy, however, not all is lost. Numerous studies show that you can work to increase your empathy. For instance, a study from 2013 suggests that people who read more fiction show more empathy. If books aren't your thing, though, a small study from 2012 suggests that regular meditation may help people have more empathy for others.
So, if you want to work on how you read other's emotions and put yourself in their shoes, there are a number of ways to go about it. Because who doesn't want to sit in their car and cry along to sad music at least once in a while, right?