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Interpersonal Relationships and Preferences for Mood-Congruency in Aesthetic Experiences
Abstract and Figures
Prior research examining how negative feelings influence aesthetic preferences (e.g., liking of different kinds of music, movies, or stories) has reported inconsistent findings. This article proposes a theoretical argument to explain when people are more likely to prefer mood-congruent to mood-incongruent aesthetic stimuli. It is suggested that mood-congruent aesthetic experiences, for example, listening to sad songs when feeling sad, (a) serve as a surrogate for the mood-sharing often observed in empathic relationships and hence (b) are preferred when emotional distress comes from failing interpersonal relationships (vs. noninterpersonal events). Consistent with this proposition, people’s preferences for mood-congruent music strongly correlate with their preferences for an empathic friend (experiment 1). Further, mood-congruent preferences significantly increase when people experience interpersonal (vs. noninterpersonal) distress, independent of emotional intensity, emotion type (sadness and frustration/anger), and normative issues (experiments 1–3). Further theoretical developments and future research are discussed.
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