Being moved by listening to unfamiliar sad music induces reward‐related hormonal changes in empathic listeners
Eerola, T., Vuoskoski, J. K., Kautiainen, H., Peltola, H., Putkinen, V., & Schäfer, K. (2021). Being moved by listening to unfamiliar sad music induces reward‐related hormonal changes in empathic listeners. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, Early online. https://doi.org/10.1111/nyas.14660
Published inAnnals of the New York Academy of Sciences
© 2021 The Authors. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences
Many people enjoy sad music, and the appeal for tragedy is widespread among the consumers of film and literature. The underlying mechanisms of such aesthetic experiences are not well understood. We tested whether pleasure induced by sad, unfamiliar instrumental music is explained with a homeostatic or a reward theory, each of which is associated with opposite patterns of changes in the key hormones. Sixty-two women listened to sad music (or nothing) while serum was collected for subsequent measurement of prolactin (PRL) and oxytocin (OT) and stress marker (cortisol and adrenocorticotropic hormone) concentrations. Two groups of participants were recruited on the basis of low and high trait empathy. In the high empathy group, PRL and OT levels were significantly lower with music compared with no music. And compared to the low empathy group, the high empathy individuals reported an increase of positive mood and higher ratings of being moved with music. None of the stress markers showed any changes across the conditions or the groups. These hormonal changes, inconsistent with the homeostatic theory proposed by Huron, exhibit a pattern expected of general reward. Our findings illuminate how unfamiliar and low arousal music may give rise to pleasurable experiences. ...