ArticlePDF AvailableLiterature Review

Music evokes vicarious emotions in listeners


Abstract and Figures

Why do we listen to sad music? We seek to answer this question using a psychological approach. It is possible to distinguish perceived emotions from those that are experienced. Therefore, we hypothesized that, although sad music is perceived as sad, listeners actually feel (experience) pleasant emotions concurrent with sadness. This hypothesis was supported, which led us to question whether sadness in the context of art is truly an unpleasant emotion. While experiencing sadness may be unpleasant, it may also be somewhat pleasant when experienced in the context of art, for example, when listening to sad music. We consider musically evoked emotion vicarious, as we are not threatened when we experience it, in the way that we can be during the course of experiencing emotion in daily life. When we listen to sad music, we experience vicarious sadness. In this review, we propose two sides to sadness by suggesting vicarious emotion.
Content may be subject to copyright.
published: 30 May 2014
doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2014.00431
Music evokes vicarious emotions in
Ai Kawakami1,2*, Kiyoshi Furukawa1,2,3 and Kazuo Okanoya1,2,4
1JST, ERATO, OKANOYA Emotional Information Project, Tokyo, Japan
2Emotional Information Joint Research Laboratory, RIKEN BSI, Saitama, Japan
3Department of Fine Arts, Tokyo University of the Arts, Tokyo, Japan
4Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, The University of Tokyo, Tokyo, Japan
Edited by:
Luiz Pessoa, University of Maryland,
Revi ewed by:
Hideki Ohira, Nagoya University,
Takashi Taniguchi, Osaka Gakuin
University, Japan
Ai Kawakami is a research scientist who
studies music and emotion. Last year, she
completed her PhD from the Tokyo
University of the Arts with the highest
honors. She has an interest in why we
listen to sad music from the viewpoints of
not only music psychology but also
neuroscience and cognitive science, and
she does have actual experience in this
regard, having won the most difficult
piano competition in Japan.
Why do we listen to sad music? We seek to answer this question using a psychological
approach. It is possible to distinguish perceived emotions from those that are
experienced. Therefore, we hypothesized that, although sad music is perceived as sad,
listeners actually feel (experience) pleasant emotions concurrent with sadness. This
hypothesis was supported, which led us to question whether sadness in the context
of art is truly an unpleasant emotion. While experiencing sadness may be unpleasant, it
may also be somewhat pleasant when experienced in the context of art, for example,
when listening to sad music. We consider musically evoked emotion vicarious, as we are
not threatened when we experience it, in the way that we can be during the course of
experiencing emotion in daily life. When we listen to sad music, we experience vicarious
sadness. In this review, we propose two sides to sadness by suggesting vicarious
Keywords: sad music, vicarious emotion, perceived/felt emotion, ambivalent emotion, emotional quality
Some people listen to music to shift their mood, while others do so to alleviate feelings of depres-
sion, unhappiness, or emotional discomfort. We often regulate our mood by listening to our music
of choice. People tend to listen to cheerful music when they want to improve their mood because
specific qualities contained in that music amuse us and improve our emotional state. With this in
mind, why do we listen to sad music? It is reasonable to assume that sad music would evoke sadness
in listeners, as we tend to tap into the sadness it emits when we elect to listen to it.
However, this seems unusual. Within emotion psychology, sadness is generally regarded as an
unpleasant emotion. According to the typical dimensional model of emotion suggested by Russell
(1980), sadness is located in the position of displeasure and deactivating emotions (Russell, 2003).
In addition, from an approach-avoidance perspective, people should want to avoid sadness. No one
would be eager to experience sadness, being such an unpleasant emotion. This begs the question:
why do we choose to listen to sad music when it should offer us an unpleasant experience?
Aristotle addressed this question by suggesting the concept of catharsis. If, as he suggested, sad
music assuages depression, then it is not surprising that people would prefer sad music. Our recent
study (Kawakami et al., 2013b) added an alternative idea explaining human preference for sad
music. We suggested that people’s ability to feel pleasure when listening to music that is perceived
as sad might be related to a difference between the perception of emotion in the music and the
emotion it actually evokes.
Frontiers in Psychology May2014|Volume5|Article431|1
Kawakami et al. Vicarious emotions evoked by sad music
KEY CONCEPT 1 | Sad music
Although music consists of many elements, including tempo, key, and
melody, numerous previous studies have confirmed that existing musical
pieces in minor keys sound sad to listeners (Hevner, 1935; Nielzén and
Cesarec, 1982; Krumhansl, 1997; Peretz et al., 1998). Therefore, we focused
on music in a minor key and defined it as sad music in this study.
There are two types of emotions: perceived and felt.
Perceived emotions concern what people perceive objectively,
whereas felt emotions concern what people actually experience. It
is possible to determine the affective aspects of a target’s expres-
sion. We can usually recognize others’ emotions using expressed
cues including facial expression, tone of voice, and gestures. A
similar process occurs when we listen to music, in that we recog-
nize it as happy or sad using cues such as key, tempo, or volume.
Conversely, we experience various emotions other than our objec-
tively perceived emotion.Whenwelookatanangryperson,we
can usually perceive that the person is angry, but we do not always
experience anger ourselves; rather, we often experience fear in
response to others’ anger. Of course, when our experienced emo-
tion is identical to our perceived emotion, then felt emotion and
perceived emotion coincide.
KEY CONCEPT 2 | Perceived emotion
There are two kinds of emotions: perceived and felt (Gabrielsson, 2002).
Perceived emotion refers to emotion that we perceive or recognize from our
surroundings and environments. For example, when we listen to a piece of
music that is being played, we are able to perceive it as being happy or sad.
KEY CONCEPT 3 | Felt emotion
Felt emotion refers to an emotion we actually experience. Indeed, per-
ceived and felt emotions are identical in many cases. However, our earlier
study (2013a) suggests that musically trained people experience pleasant
emotions while listening to dissonance and music in minor keys despite per-
ceiving them as unpleasant. Thus, there is a need to distinguish felt from
perceived emotion.
Gabrielsson (2002) noted that it is essential to distinguish
between perceived emotion and felt emotion, suggesting four
patterns of relationships between these two kinds of emotions
in response to music: positive relationship, negative relation-
ship, no systematic relationship, and no relationship. A recent
article (Schubert, 2013) reviewed these four relationships, and
suggested that perceived and felt emotions are often coincident
in many cases. For example, sad music is generally thought to
make listeners feel sad, which would indicate a positive relation-
ship between perceived and felt emotions (Table 1). Can this be
expanded? Our earlier study (Kawakami et al., 2013a)presenteda
range of musical structures in which perceived emotion differed
from felt emotion. The structures were composed of 21 musical
stimuli, including key (major/minor), ascending (or descend-
ing) melody, and consonance (or dissonance). We found that,
Table 1 | Relationships between perceived and felt emotions.
Perceived emotion Felt emotion
Positive relationship Sad Sad
Negative relationship Sad Pleasant
although dissonance and melody in a minor key were perceived
as unpleasant sounds, listeners actually felt fewer unpleasant and
more pleasant emotions when listening to these musical stim-
uli. Therefore, perceived emotion is not always congruent with
felt emotion when related to particular musical structures. When
felt emotion is opposed to perceived emotion, this is considered
as a “negative relationship” (Table 1 ). Generally, as minor-key
music is perceived as sad (Hevner, 1935), the above mentioned
case, in which the minor-key melody evoked more pleasant emo-
tions, exemplifies the common phenomenon of enjoyment of sad
music. In our study, we attempted to clarify the underlying mech-
anisms of “pleasurable sadness” using this framework for negative
relationships between perceived and felt emotions.
Further, Kawakami et al. (2013a) recently found that musically
trained or experienced individuals perceived dissonant, minor-
key music as unpleasant, but the stimuli did not evoke equally
unpleasant emotions. As musically trained people have had more
opportunity to listen to or play dissonant music than people who
are not musically experienced, the emotion evoked by dissonant
music was presumed to be influenced by musical experience. In
light of this, in our study (Kawakami et al., 2013b), we hypoth-
esized that musicians would experience more pleasant emotions
than non-musicians would when listening to sad music, although
both groups were expected to perceive an equal degree of sadness
in the sound of the music.
Twenty-five women and 19 men participated in the study.
Participants were placed into one of two groups according to
their musical experience. Professional musicians and college stu-
dents who were majoring in music formed the “musician group”
(n=17), while individuals who were employed in fields unre-
lated to music or attended college and majored subjects other
than music formed the “non-musician group” (n=27). The
participants’ mean age was 25.3 years (SD =6.6).
We used the following three musical pieces: (1) Glinka’s La
Separation (F major and F minor), played at quarter note =80;
(2) Blumenfeld’s Etude “Sur Mer” (G major and G minor), played
at half note =72; and (3) Granados’s Allegro de Concierto
(G major and G minor), played at quarter note =70. Preparing
both major- and minor-key versions for all musical pieces enabled
us to examine whether perceived and felt emotions differed
according to key. Kawakami et al. (2013b) present the scores.
We endeavored not to use prominent musical pieces as musi-
cal stimuli to avoid evoking particular memories that participants
may have associated with well-known music, thereby ensuring
that emotion evoked by the music would be derived from the
stimuli rather than a memory. We asked participants if they rec-
ognized the music, and no one reported having heard the musical
stimuli before.
Participants reported how they perceived the music (their per-
ception of the music) and how it made them feel (their own
Frontiers in Psychology May2014|Volume5|Article431|2
Kawakami et al. Vicarious emotions evoked by sad music
emotional state) using 62 emotion-related descriptive words and
phrases on a scale ranging from 0 (not at all) to 4 (very much).
These descriptive words and phrases referred to various types
of emotion that had been used in earlier studies (Hevner, 1936;
Taniguchi, 1995; Zentner et al., 2008). For more details, refer to
Table 1 in Kawakami et al. (2013b).
The participants performed four tasks. The first asked partici-
pants to listen to the music (major or minor) and report either
their perceived or felt emotion. The second required that partici-
pants listen to the music played in a different key to that used in
the first piece and report their perceived or felt emotion according
to which of these they reported in the first task (i.e., the same type
of emotion, either perceived or felt, was reported in both tasks).
In the third and fourth tasks, participants repeated tasks 1 and 2
but gave an indication of the alternate type of emotion (perceived
or felt).
We used a traditional question to evaluate listeners’ feelings in
response to the music (felt emotion): “How did you feel when
listening to this musical stimulus?” We evaluated each listener’s
perceived emotion with the following question: “How would nor-
mal people feel when listening to this musical stimulus?” Though
this method may appear to be an inadequate measure of perceived
emotion, we presumed the following process: “This music sounds
sad to me and most likely to other people as well. I cannot know
how other people actually feel, but my best guess is that they will
feel the emotion that the music portrays.
To determine the characteristics of relevant factors, we performed
an exploratory factor analysis to classify the 62 emotion-related
descriptive words and phrases included using 176 datasets: 2 (per-
ceived/felt emotion) ×2 (major/minor key) ×44 participants.
For each resultant factor, we conducted a Three-Way analysis of
variance (ANOVA) with the following design: musical emotion
(perceived vs. felt) ×key (major vs. minor) ×musical experience
(musicians vs. non-musicians). This allowed us to compare these
variables for each factor.
The 62 emotion-related descriptive words and phrases were
investigated via factor analysis, and four factors were extracted:
“tragic emotion,” “heightened emotion,” “romantic emotion,
and “blithe emotion.” We then conducted a Three-Way ANOVA
for each factor.
We tested our hypothesis that felt emotion would not necessarily
correspond with perceived emotion, particularly in response to
music played in a minor key. Our results showed that, although
the sad music was perceived as more tragic, participants did
not experience the corresponding tragic emotions (e.g., gloomy,
meditative, and miserable). Mean factor scores were 2.50 for per-
ceived tragic emotion and 2.08 for felt tragic emotion. Indeed,
participants felt more romantic (e.g., fascinated, dear, and in
love) and blithe emotions (e.g., merry, animated, and feel like
dancing) than they perceived such emotions when listening to
the same sad music. Figure 1 represents mean factor scores for
perceived and felt emotion ratings; mean factor scores were 1.04
for perceived romantic emotion, 1.31 for felt romantic emo-
tion, 0.24 for perceived blithe emotion, and 0.40 for felt blithe
Participants’ emotional responses were not associated with musi-
cal training. Music that was perceived as tragic evoked fewer
sad and more romantic emotions in both musicians and non-
musicians. Therefore, our hypothesis—when participants lis-
tened to sad (i.e., minor-key) music, those with more musical
experience (relative to those with less experience) would feel
more pleasant emotions than they would perceive—was not sup-
ported. According to an earlier study (Kawakami et al., 2013a),
musically experienced participants judged perceived emotion
as more unpleasant than felt emotion when exposed to very
short minor-key musical stimuli (played for approximately 5 s).
However, they also felt fewer unpleasant emotions and more
pleasant feelings when listening to music in a minor key. The lack
of significant differences between musicians and non-musicians
in terms of emotional reactions to sad music in the current study
could be a function of the musical stimuli that we used. Although
Kawakami et al. (2013a) used a musical structure that lacked eco-
logical validity (each stimulus was presented for approximately
5 s), we used existing musical pieces (presented for approximately
30 s) that included a number of musical structures (Ta b l e 2),
which allowed participants to capture more esthetic information
*p< 0.05
Tragic Emotion Heightened
Blithe Emotion
FIGURE 1 | Mean factor scores for perceived and felt emotions.
Table 2 | Effect of musical training on the difference between
perceived and felt emotions.
Kawakami et al. (2013a) Kawakami et al. (2013b)
Musical stimuli Single musical structure
(5.06 s for each)
Excerpt of existing music
(33.8 s for each)
between perceived
and felt emotions
Only suitable for people
with high levels of musi-
cal training
Suitable for both musi-
cians and non-musicians
Frontiers in Psychology May2014|Volume5|Article431|3
Kawakami et al. Vicarious emotions evoked by sad music
from the music. Consequently, regardless of their musical expe-
rience, participants may have reacted to the esthetic aspects of
the sad music, which would render musical experience ineffec-
tual. This explanation seems plausible considering that people,
including those with musical experience, habitually enjoy sad
Listening to sad music evokes ambivalent emotions: both
positive and negative relationships.
With regard to felt emotion, sad music evoked both tragic and
romantic emotions in participants. Romantic emotion included
emotions such as feeling fascinated, dear, and in love, and it
would be appropriate to regard these emotions as pleasant rather
than unpleasant. Therefore, when listening to sad music, it would
appear that people experience ambivalent emotion. Aristotle’s
explanation for a preference for sad music was based on the belief
that sad music evoked sad emotion. In contrast, the results of our
study suggest that sad music evokes other emotions in addition
to tragic (i.e., sad) emotion and preference for sad music is based
on positive emotions. It is therefore possible to love sad music
because of the positive emotional components it evokes, which
may relieve supporters of sad music.
Having established that we experience ambivalent emotions
when listening to sad music, why does this occur? The pos-
itive relationship suggested by Gabrielsson (2002) appears to
be the simplest explanation for the relationship between per-
ceived and felt emotions and how sad music evokes negative
emotion in listeners; however, the majority of previous studies
have not distinguished between perceived and felt emotion. More
precisely, results showing that people experience ambivalent emo-
tions in response to sad music demonstrate that perceived and
felt emotions in response to sad music are not coincident. The
phenomenon of enjoying sad music indicates that both negative
and positive relationships exist between perceived and felt emo-
tions. We discuss this phenomenon using three approaches in the
following section.
We offer three approaches to explain why both pleasant and
unpleasant emotions are evoked by sad music. The sweet anticipa-
tion and re-evaluation approaches presume that sadness evoked
by sad music is unpleasant and identical to common emotions,
as posited by Juslin (2013). Using these approaches, it would be
possible to explain why sad music evoked stronger felt roman-
tic emotion than perceived romantic emotion. We also introduce
the notion of “vicarious emotion.” This approach suggests that
sadness evoked by sad music is qualitatively different from sad-
ness experienced in daily life. It would be of help to explain why
sad music evoked weaker felt tragic emotion than perceived tragic
emotion. However, it should be noted that these three theories are
not mutually exclusive.
KEY CONCEPT 4 | Vicarious emotion
We defined vicarious emotion as that experienced while listening to music.
Although emotions we experience in daily life are often derived from actual
objects or situations, vicarious emotions are free from the essential unpleas-
antness of their genuine counterparts. As listening to music poses no direct
threat or danger to us, we can experience a range of vicarious emotions in
such a situation.
While listening to music, we tend to anticipate what is coming
next. According to Meyer’s (1956) musical expectancy theory,
a violation, delay, or confirmation of a listener’s expectations
evokes emotion, which is derived from a prediction of the contin-
uation of the music (Huron, 2006). A listener’s expectation would
be confirmed if the predicted sound was heard, which would
evoke positive emotion (i.e., “sweet anticipation”).
Therefore, even if listeners experience sadness when listening
to sad music, this sweet anticipation allows them to feel positive
emotions simultaneously. Consequently, the pleasant experience
would have arisen as a consequence of sweet anticipation.
The role of the emotion-appraisal process is considered cru-
cial in the two-factor theory of emotion (Schachter and Singer,
1962) and cognitive-mediational theory (Lazarus, 1966, 1993).
According to Oatley and Johnson-Laird (2014),thisisthecase
with three representative cognitive theories of emotion: the
action-readiness theory of emotions (Frijda, 1986, 2007; Frijda
and Parrott, 2011); the core-affect theory of emotions (Russell,
2003); and the communicative theory of emotions (Oatley and
Johnson-Laird, 1987, 2011). It is also essential for people to
understand their own situations to experience emotion (Lazarus,
1966). When we listen to music, being in a listening situation
is obvious to us; therefore, how emotion is evoked would be
influenced by our cognitive appraisal of listening to music. For
example, a cognitive appraisal of listening to sad music as engage-
ment with art would promote positive emotion, regardless of
whether that music evoked feelings of unpleasant sadness, thereby
provoking the experience of ambivalent emotions in response
to sad music. It is possible that we initially experience negative
emotion, such as sadness, and subsequently experience positive
emotion because of the rewarding effects of enjoying art (Koelsch,
This approach may resemble those of Schubert (1996) and
Juslin (2013), in that both consider esthetic context or judg-
ment as causes of pleasant emotion. Schubert (1996) suggests that
esthetic context activates a node in the neural network that deac-
tivates the displeasure center of the brain. This is based on the
Berlyne’s (1971) notion that there are cues that inhibit the aver-
sion system in an artistic context. Juslin (2013) suggested that
conflicting emotion, such as sadness and pleasure, originates from
the “emotional contagion” and “esthetic judgment” mechanisms.
He explains that sadness elicited by music arises through emo-
tional contagion, and that the pleasure elicited by music occurs in
response to our perception of the beauty of the music. As these
two mechanisms occur concurrently, it is possible to experience
pleasurable sadness when we listen to sad music.
The ideas expressed by Schubert and Juslin are interesting, and
our results indicate that participants experienced both tragic and
romantic emotion when listening to sad music. However, notably,
participants experienced less tragic emotion than they perceived
when listening to sad music. If tragic emotion was evoked through
the emotional contagion mechanism, the degree of tragic emo-
tion experienced could be expected to be equal to or surpass the
listener’s perceived emotion in response to sad music. Because
Frontiers in Psychology May2014|Volume5|Article431|4
Kawakami et al. Vicarious emotions evoked by sad music
the emotional contagion emanates from others, the perceived
emotion in this study measured the emotional states of others.
In addition, so-called esthetic emotion would be compara-
ble to the romantic emotion in our experiment. Interestingly,
participants experienced more romantic emotion than they per-
ceived when listening to sad music. When participants listened to
happy music, this tendency was absent, and the degree of roman-
tic emotion perceived did not differ significantly from the degree
of romantic emotion actually experienced. Therefore, pleasant
emotion may originate not only from esthetic judgment but also
from a lack of real danger. As listening to music was not related
to an actual threat to their safety, participants would experi-
ence less tragic emotion and more romantic emotion than they
Is the sadness evoked by music really an unpleasant emotion? Is it
similar to the sad emotion experienced in daily life? In many cases,
emotions evoked by music are not regarded as different from
those experienced in daily life and listeners frequently report basic
emotions (e.g., happy, sad, or angry) in response to music. In our
study, participants also reported sadness, but we suspect that the
quality of that sadness differs from sadness in daily life in that we
are willing to experience it, whereas we are not generally willing to
experience sadness in daily life; this indicates that sadness evoked
by music is pleasant and the same emotion experienced in daily
life is not. Indeed, participants might only have chosen “sadness”
as a description of their emotion because the word was selected by
the experimenter for the questionnaire. Hence, it may be too soon
to conclude that sadness is only related to unpleasant emotion.
Of course, we agree that music evokes similar emotions to
those experienced in everyday life in cases in which personal
memories, such as those of a broken relationship or bereavement,
are associated with the music. In such cases, listeners would expe-
rience unpleasant sadness similar in quality to that experienced
in daily life. In this situation, the sadness evoked by the music is,
to be exact, derived from the memory associated with the music
rather than from the music itself, which would merely serve as a
trigger for the unpleasant sadness related to the memory.
In contrast, some researchers have denied that music can evoke
common “everyday emotions” (e.g., sadness, happiness, or anger;
Kivy, 1990; Koneˇ
cni, 2003; Scherer, 2003). Noy (1993) noted that
“the emotion evoked by music are not identical with the emotion
aroused by everyday interpersonal activity” (p. 126). As Eerola
and Vuoskoski (2011) noted, although sadness is generally con-
sidered an unpleasant emotion, in the context of music, it may not
be classified as unpleasant. That is, in the context of art, emotion-
evoking processes may differ from those of day-to-day emotions.
Therefore, as Scherer (2004) proposed when discussing the dis-
tinction between goal-oriented utilitarian emotion and esthetic
emotion, the sadness that we experience while listening to sad
music may differ from that experienced in daily life. As shown
in Figure 2, we imagine that, although sadness experienced in
daily life would be mapped in the displeasure area, sadness expe-
rienced via art would be mapped in the pleasure area. That is, the
two types of sadness may diverge, although sadness is typically
considered as a solely unpleasant emotion.
FIGURE 2 | The two kinds of sadness.
In sum, we consider emotion experienced in response to
music to be qualitatively different from emotion experienced in
daily life; some earlier studies (Scherer and Zentner, 2001, 2008;
Scherer, 2003; Zentner et al., 2008) also proposed that music
may evoke music-specific emotions. The difference between the
emotions evoked in daily life and music-induced emotions is
the degree of directness attached to emotion-evoking stimuli.
Emotion experienced in daily life is direct in nature because the
stimuli that evoke the emotion could be threatening. However,
music is a safe stimulus with no relationship to actual threat;
therefore, emotion experienced through music is not direct in
nature. The latter emotion is experienced via an essentially safe
activity such as listening to music. We call this type of emotion
“vicarious emotion.
As emotions evoked by music have no real threat attached, we
suppose that a wide variety and intensity of emotions could be
considered vicarious emotions. However, it might be difficult to
apply the vicarious emotion hypothesis to particular emotions or
deep sadness associated with non-musical influences; for exam-
ple, where extremely intense sadness is related to a non-musical
factor, such as the death of a close relative. With regard to listening
to music, various types of sadness could be considered vicari-
ous emotions because we assume that musically evoked sadness
does not actually pose a threat, regardless of the intensity of that
We added a direct-vicarious axis to the pleasant-unpleasant
axis, as shown in Figure 3. The horizontal axis (pleasant-
unpleasant) depicts the emotional evaluation of experienced
emotion, and the vertical axis (direct-vicarious) depicts the way
in which individuals relate to the stimuli that elicit the emo-
tion. Because of their direct relationship to the cause, emotions
experienced in daily life would be located in the first and sec-
ond quadrants in Figure 3. Conversely, emotions experienced
while listening to music would be located in the fourth quad-
rant because despite inducing emotion, music has no direct
relationship to the listener; therefore, listeners experience vicar-
ious emotions in response to music, which enables them to
experience pleasant emotion even when they perceive the music
as sad.
Focusing on vicarious emotion could improve our under-
standing of the nature of the experience of art and highlight an
aspect of our emotional system that is sensitive to more than just
Frontiers in Psychology May2014|Volume5|Article431|5
Kawakami et al. Vicarious emotions evoked by sad music
FIGURE 3 | Pleasant-unpleasant, direct-vicarious model.
we experience an astounding range of emotions. An endeavor to
understand what such emotional functions provide could become
a quest for the meaning and significance of art (Kawakami, 2013).
Measuring both perceived and felt emotions, we clarified the
phenomenon of enjoyment in listening to sad music. We hypothe-
sized that sad music would be perceived as sad, but the experience
of listening to sad music would evoke positive emotions in lis-
teners. The results supported our hypothesis, in that although
sad music was perceived as more tragic, listeners experienced
less tragic emotion. Listeners also experienced romantic emo-
tion; therefore, we could argue that sad music inspired ambivalent
emotions in the listeners. Moreover, we suggest that the reason
people experience ambivalent emotions when listening to sad
music may be that the music generates vicarious emotions in
listeners. That is, even if the music evokes a negative emotion,
listeners are not faced with any real threat; therefore, the sadness
that listeners feel has a pleasant, rather than an unpleasant, qual-
ity to it. This suggests that sadness is multifaceted, whereas it has
previously been regarded as a solely unpleasant emotion.
Although we used minor-key musical pieces as sad music in our
study (Kawakami et al., 2013b), examination of other musical ele-
ments, including acoustic parameters (Gingras et al., 2013), is
required. Moreover, we are anxious to know more why minor-
key music sounds sad and evokes sadness in listeners; we believe
this to be an important issue.
We would like to thank the JST ERATO OKANOYA Emotional
Information Project and the Emotional Information Joint
Research Laboratory (RIKEN BSI). We also acknowledge the
Basic Agreement for the Promotion of Coordination and
Cooperation between Tokyo University of the Arts and RIKEN.
Berlyne, D. E. (1971). Aesthetics and Psychobiology. New York, NY: Appleton
Century Crofts.
Eerola, T., and Vuoskoski, J. (2011). A comparison of the discrete and
dimensional models of emotion in music. Psychol. Music 39, 18–49. doi:
Frijda, N. H. (1986). The Emotions. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Frijda, N. H. (2007). TheLawsofEmotion.Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum Associates.
Frijda, N. H., and Parrott, W. G. (2011). Basic emotions or ur-emotions. Emot. Rev.
3, 416–423. doi: 10.1177/1754073911410742
Gabrielsson, A. (2002). Emotion perceived and emotion felt: same or different?
Musicae Sci. [Special issue 2001-2002], 5, 123–147. doi: 10.1177/1029864902
Gingras, B., Marin, M. M., and Fitch, W. T. (2013). Beyond intensity: spectral fea-
tures effectively predict music-inducedsubjective arousal. Q. J. Exp. Psychol. doi:
10.1080/17470218.2013.863954. [Epub ahead of print].
Hevner, K. (1935). The affective character of the major and minor modes in music.
Am. J. Psycho l. 47, 103–118. doi: 10.2307/1416710
Hevner, K. (1936). Experimental studies of the elements of expression in music.
Am. J. Psycho l. 48, 246–268. doi: 10.2307/1415746
Huron, D. (2006). Sweet Anticipation: Music and the Psychology of Expectation.
Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
Juslin, P. N. (2013). From everyday emotions to aesthetic emotions: towards
a unified theory of musical emotions. Phys. Life Rev. 10, 235–266. doi:
Kawakami, A. (2013). Why we like sad music. The New York Times.
Available online at:
why-we- like-sad- music.html
Kawakami, A., Furukawa, K., Katahira,K., Kamiyama, K., and Okanoya, K. (2013a).
Relations between musical structures and perceived and felt emotion. Music
Perce pt. 30, 407–418. doi: 10.1525/mp.2013.30.4.407
Kawakami, A., Furukawa, K., Katahira, K., and Okanoya, K. (2013b). Sad music
induces pleasant emotion. Front. Psychol. 4:311. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2013.00311
Kivy, P. (1990). Music Alone: Philosophical Reflections on the Purely Musical
Experience. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press.
Koelsch, S. (2012). “Emotion,” in Brain and Music (West Sussex: Wiley-Blackwell),
Kone ˇ
cni, V. J. (2003). Review of music and emotion: theory and research, edited by
P.N.JuslinandJ.A.Sloboda.Mus ic Perce pt. 20, 332–341.
Krumhansl, C. L. (1997). An exploratory study of musical emotions and psy-
chophysiology. Can. J. Exp. Psychol. 51, 336–353. doi: 10.1037/1196-1961.51.
Lazarus, R. S. (1966). Psychological Stress and the Coping Process. New York, NY:
Lazarus, R. S. (1993). From psychological stress to the emotions: a
history of changing outlooks. Annu . Rev. Psychol. 44, 1–21. doi:
Meyer, L. B. (1956). Emotion and Meaning in Music. Chicago, IL: University of
Chicago Press.
Nielzén, S., and Cesarec, Z. (1982). Emotional experience of music as a function of
musical structure. Psychol. Music 10, 7–17. doi: 10.1177/0305735682102002
Noy, P. (1993). “How music conveys emotion,” in Psychoanalytic Explorations in
Music edsS.Feder,R.Karmel,andG.Pollock(NewYork,NY:International
Universities Press), 125–149.
Oatley, K., and Johnson-Laird, P. N. (1987). Towards a cognitive theory of emo-
tions. Cogn. Emot. 1, 29–50. doi: 10.1080/02699938708408362
Oatley, K., and Johnson-Laird, P. N. (2011). Basic emotions in social relation-
ships, reasoning, and psychological illnesses. Emot. Rev. 3, 424–433. doi:
Oatley, K., and Johnson-Laird, P. N. (2014). Cognitive approaches to emotions.
Tre n ds C ogn . S ci . 18, 134–140. doi: 10.1016/j.tics.2013.12.004
Peretz, I., Gagnon, L., and Bouchard, B. (1998). Music and emotion: percep-
tual determinants, immediacy, and isolation after brain damage. Cognition 68,
111–141. doi: 10.1016/S0010-0277(98)00043-2
Russell, J. A. (1980). A circumplex model of affect. J.Pers.Soc.Psychol.39,
1161–1178. doi: 10.1037/h0077714
Russell, J. A. (2003). Core affect and the psychological construction of emotion.
Psychol. Rev. 110, 145–172. doi: 10.1037/0033-295X.110.1.145
Schachter, S., and Singer, J. (1962). Cognitive, social, and physiological determi-
nants of emotional state. Psychol. Re v. 69, 379–399. doi: 10.1037/h0046234
Scherer, K. R. (2003). “Why music does not produce basic emotions: a plea for
a new approach to measuring emotional effects of music,” in Proceedings of
Frontiers in Psychology May2014|Volume5|Article431|6
Kawakami et al. Vicarious emotions evoked by sad music
the Stockholm Music Acoustics Conference 2003,edR.Bresin(RoyalInstituteof
Technology), 25–28.
Scherer, K. R. (2004). Which emotions can be evoked by music? What are the
underlying mechanisms? And how can we measure them? J. New Music Res. 33,
239–251. doi: 10.1080/0929821042000317822
Scherer, K., and Zentner, M. (2001). “Emotional effects of music: production rules,
in Music and Emotion: Theory and Research, eds P. N. Juslin and J. A. Sloboda
(New York, NY: Oxford University Press), 361–392.
Scherer, K. R., and Zentner, M. (2008). Music-evoked emotions aredifferent – more
often aesthetic than utilitarian. Behav. Brain Sci. 31, 595–596. doi: 10.1017/
Schubert, E. (1996). Enjoyment of unpleasant emotion in music: an associative
network explanation. Psychol. Music 24, 18–28. doi: 10.1177/0305735696241003
Schubert, E. (2013). Emotion felt by the listener and expressed by the music:
literature review and theoretical perspectives. Front. Psychol. 4:837. doi:
Taniguchi, T. (1995). Construction of an affective value scale of music and exami-
nation of relations between the scale and a multiple mood scale. Jpn. J. Psychol.
65, 463–470. doi: 10.4992/jjpsy.65.463
Zentner, M., Grandjean, D., and Scherer, K. R. (2008). Emotions evoked by the
sound of music: characterization, classification, and measurement. Emotion 8,
494–521. doi: 10.1037/1528-3542.8.4.494
Conflict of Interest Statement: The authors declare that the research was con-
ducted in the absence of any commercial or financial relationships that could be
construed as a potential conflict of interest.
Received: 30 January 2014; accepted: 24 April 2014; published online: 30 May 2014.
Citation: Kawakami A, Furukawa K and Okanoya K (2014) Music evokes vicarious
emotions in listeners. Front. Psychol. 5:431. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2014.00431
This article was submitted to the journal Frontiers in Psychology.
Copyright © 2014 Kawakami, Furukawa and Okanoya. This is an open-access
article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License
(CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, pro-
vided the original author(s) or licensor are credited and that the original pub-
lication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice.
No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with
these terms.
Frontiers in Psychology May2014|Volume5|Article431|7
... The performer's emotion will then be experienced or felt by the listener (Jusllin & Timmers, 2010b). But in some cases, the felt emotion may not always correspond with the perceived emotion (Kawakami et al., 2014). For example, while sad music was perceived as more tragic, listeners may not experience the corresponding tragic emotions (Kawakami et al., 2014). ...
... But in some cases, the felt emotion may not always correspond with the perceived emotion (Kawakami et al., 2014). For example, while sad music was perceived as more tragic, listeners may not experience the corresponding tragic emotions (Kawakami et al., 2014). Music has also been frequently associated with its role as a therapy for persons who have been diagnosed with a variety of conditions such as autism, depression, and Alzheimer's disease (e.g., Simmons-Stern et al., 2010). ...
The social nature of music can influence human emotions. Music allows listeners to express their emotions, whether positive or negative at intrapersonal and interpersonal levels. Pop music in particular has been known as a useful tool to facilitate students’ learning and help them become creative, relieve their boredom, and help them get through difficult times. However, what is less known to date is how Pop music influences the emotions of youth and why they rely on the music to communicate their feelings. Available studies have mostly used surveys to collect data among pre-school and middle school children. Samples have also been mostly from Western countries. Utilising a qualitative research method, we recruited 12 undergraduate students from public and private university in Selangor, Malaysia. The participants were selected using the purposive sampling method and data were collected through semi-structured interviews conducted both online and face-to-face. Thematic analysis revealed that students experience joy, relaxation, happiness, and sadness when they listen to their favourite Pop songs. Pop music enables youth to release powerful emotional responses such as thrills and chills. The relatable and meaningful lyrics often mirror their inner thoughts and feelings and helps them express and explore their emotions when communicating with other people.
... Music relieves tension and provides a positive effect on psychological adjustment (Wang, 2018). Listening to the music helps to relieve sadness, unhappiness, or emotional distress (Kawakami et. al, 2014). Music influences neural structures involved in the regulation of emotion (Moore, 2013); and music can stimulate deep emotions in a listener (Västfjäll, 2001). Georgieva (2017) emphasized that music also enhanced the younger generation's creativity. Not only that, it was mentioned that programming power of music can be channeled for bot ...
Full-text available
There are several methods in teaching music to young children. This paper aims to investigate the methodologies for teaching music for young children of five to ten years old. The research objectives for this study was to investigate the methodologies used by music teachers in teaching music to young children; and to determine the impacts of music learning on young children's behavior. A total of six purposely-selected respondents took part in this qualitative study with music teachers who had at least five years of teaching music with young children. Open interview questions were carried out using a guided interview protocol of ten questions supporting the research objectives. Findings posited that three teaching methods namely: 1) imitation method facilitates learning for psychomotor development skills for young children; 2) instructional and visual aids in the teaching processes facilitates the cognitive development and learning skills; and 3) incorporating movements into the teaching process which inculcate fun and enjoy but with guided learning. The study revealed the impacts of music learning supports the young children's development specifically: 1) improve learning skills and performance, 2) improve self-discipline and emotional control, 3) encourage creativity in young children. However, the teaching methodologies on teaching music on young children need supporting factors to capture their span of attention in learning namely: 1) facilitation to their needs to maintain their focus to learn; 2) voice projection and facial expressions from the teachers to retain the young students span of attention; 3) movement method to create fun and joyful learning environment for the young learners; and 4) offering rewards to create a healthy competitive learning culture among the young children.
... It has been suggested that sad music does not elicit basic emotions, such as sadness, but creates feelings of "being moved" (Vuoskoski & Eerola, 2017) and "aesthetic awe" (Konečni et al., 2008). Non-genuine sadness may be experienced because the emotions experienced from music are vicarious and non-threatening (Kawakami et al., 2014). This supports cognitivist beliefs that music does not induce "real" emotion, as the sadness from listening to music is lacking real-life consequences. ...
Full-text available
The enjoyment and pleasure derived from sad music has sparked fascination among researchers due to its seemingly paradoxical nature in producing positive affect. Research is yet to develop a comprehensive understanding of this “paradox.” Contradictory findings have resulted in a great variability within the literature, meaning results and interpretations can be difficult to derive. Consequently, this review collated the current literature, seeking to utilize the variability in the findings to propose a model of differential sad states, providing a means for past and future findings to be interpreted. The proposed model is based on theoretical understanding, as such it requires full empirical support. Comparisons to alternative models, theoretical, clinical, and cognitive implications, as well as future directions are discussed.
... Vuilleumier (2014) continues by identifying "music-specific" emotions: joy, sadness, tension (fear or anxiety), wonder, nostalgia, tenderness, power, peacefulness and transcendence. This notion that the processes of emotion emergence in the arts may differ from everyday emotions is supported by Kawakami et al. (2014). At first glance, musical emotions are emotions related to the aesthetic value of music or the emotions that are evoked and expressed through music. ...
Full-text available
This article discusses the impact that the Covid-19 pandemic has had on singing with children in schools by providing a descriptive analysis of a comparative look at children's experiences of their singing habits and emotional well-being during the first Covid-19 lockdown. Covid-19 has established itself as (for now) an ever-present variable in our daily lives. This paper offers a descriptive analysis of a comparative study of the Covid-19 lockdown(s) influence on children's singing habits and emotional well-being in Italy, Austria, and Finland. A survey was carried out on children and young people aged 10-20 from Austria, Finland, and Italy on how the Coronavirus lockdown has impacted their everyday lives and their general well-being. Attributes analysed are age, gender, emotional response on the change of singing habits, singing habits before and after Covid-19 lockdown. Until it is certain that rehearsals and communal singing can take place without health risks, alternative options should be explored to effectively plan online teaching in the future. It is the hope that this research, which is only but a start, will spark further research into the matter and contribute to the development of systems and platforms where children can continue their educational and music educational growth by ensuring an uninterrupted singing experience.
... Gabrielsson (2001) proposed that four patterns of relationship exist between felt and perceived emotions (positive relationship, negative relationship, no systematic relationship, and no relationship); indeed, felt and perceived emotions do not always overlap. Such a difference is particularly evident in the pleasure one experiences when listening to sad music (Kawakami et al., 2014). ...
Several studies have employed music to affect various tasks through mood induction procedures. In this perspective, music's emotional content coherently affects the listeners' mood, which, in turn, affects performance. On the contrary, in film music cognition, schema theory suggests that music adds semantic information that interacts with the viewers' previous knowledge and influences visual information processing. As in this interpretation the viewers' mood is not deeply considered, it is not clear the extent to which music effects are also due to its power of affecting the viewers' mood or rather a mere cognitive priming-like influence. An online experiment (N = 169) on how music biases the recognition memory of a scene was built comparing semantic and emotional effects of soundtracks differing in valence (happy vs scary) during a recognition task. The results show that 1) music affected the viewers' mood coherently with its emotional valence, 2) music led to falsely recognise unseen objects as truly present when coherent with the soundtrack valence; and 3) the effect of music on the biased remembering was not mediated by the viewers' mood, thus suggesting a strong interpretation of the schema theory in film music processing. Finally, a methodological reflection is provided on the issue of the manipulation check in experiments that employ musical stimuli to assess their influence on cognition.
Science has long been concerned with the question of how it is possible for music to elicit emotions‒so far, however, with only moderate success. The theory of musical equilibration shines a light on this problem from a new perspective. The theory was first proposed in 1997 by German music theorist, Bernd Willimek, who further developed it with his wife and fellow theorist, Daniela Willimek. Music itself, the theory goes, cannot generate emotions directly. Rather, emotions should be understood as a response to the processes of will that are encoded in music. By identifying with these processes of will, listeners experience music emotionally. This is comparable to the situation of moviegoers who identify with the protagonist on screen and thereby vicariously experience emotions. In this work, the affirmative character of the major triad and the negative character of the minor triad are substantiated. According to the theory of musical equilibration, the volume at which a minor chord is played determines whether it is perceived as sorrow or anger. Furthermore, the authors discuss issues such as why a diminished seventh chord is well suited as the score for film scenes involving fear, or how an augmented chord can convey amazement and astonishment. To show the practical application of the theory of musical equilibration, the authors carried out tests with school (K-12) and university students (basic test part A, basic test part B, Rocky test).
Full-text available
Introduction and aim: Music has a profound relationship with human emotions. However, the characteristics and correlates of this relationship have not yet been determined. The aim of this review is to describe the results of the research on the capacity of music in the generation and modification of the emotional state in the listener, the respective methodological designs and the evaluation tests used. Methods: A systematic review of articles written between 2009 and 2021 was carried out. The criteria for inclusion, exclusion, analysis, and data recording are based on the structure proposed in the Preferred Items of Reports for Systematic and Meta-analyses Reviews (PRISMA). Results: The results show that music can generate and modify changes in the emotional state of listeners, in addition to modifying cognitive performance in recognition tasks and executive performance. However, the neuropsychological foundations and characteristics that would determine these modifications are diverse and inconclusive. Conclusions: It is necessary to carry out studies that, through a rigorous methodology, allow to establish consistent conclusions on the human characteristics that sustain the capacity of music in the generation or modification of the emotional state.
Full-text available
RESUMEN Introducción y objetivo: Existe una profunda relación entre las emociones humanas y la música. Sin embargo, las características y correlatos neurobiológicos de esta relación aún no se han determinado. La presente revisión tiene como objetivo describir los resultados de la investigación sobre la capacidad de la música en la generación y modificación del estado emocional del oyente, los respectivos diseños metodológicos y las pruebas de evaluación utilizadas. Métodos: Se realizó una revisión sistemática de artículos escritos entre 2009 y 2021. Los criterios de inclusión, exclusión, análisis y registro de datos se basan en la estructura propuesta en los Ítems Preferidos de Reportes para Revisiones Sistemáticas y Metaanálisis (PRISMA). Resultados: Los resultados muestran que la música tiene la capacidad de generar cambios en el estado emocional de los oyentes, además de modificar el desempeño cognitivo en tareas de reconocimiento y desempeño cognitivo. Sin embargo, los fundamentos neuropsicológicos y las características que determinarían estas modificaciones son diversas y no concluyentes. Conclusiones: Es necesario realizar estudios que, mediante una metodología rigurosa, permitan establecer conclusiones consistentes sobre las características humanas que sustentan la capacidad de la música en la generación o modificación del estado emocional. ABSTRACT Introduction and aim: Music has a profound relationship with human emotions. However, the characteristics and correlates of this relationship have not yet been determined. The aim of this review is to describe the results of the research on the capacity of music in the generation and modification of the emotional state in the listener, the respective methodological designs and the evaluation tests used. Methods: A systematic review of articles written between 2009 and 2021 was carried out. The criteria for inclusion, exclusion, analysis, and data recording are based on the structure proposed in the Preferred Items of Reports for
At the heart of emotion, mood, and any other emotionally charged event are states experienced as simply feeling good or bad, energized or enervated. These states - called core affect - influence reflexes, perception, cognition, and behavior and are influenced by many causes internal and external, but people have no direct access to these causal connections. Core affect can therefore be experienced as free-floating (mood) or can be attributed to some cause (and thereby begin an emotional episode). These basic processes spawn a broad framework that includes perception of the core-affect-altering properties of stimuli, motives, empathy, emotional meta-experience, and affect versus emotion regulation; it accounts for prototypical emotional episodes, such as fear and anger, as core affect attributed to something plus various nonemotional processes.
In the article by S. Schachter and J. Singer, which appeared in Psychological Review (1962, 69(5), 379-399) the following corrections should be made: The superscript "a" should precede the word "All" in the footnote to Table 2. The superscript "a" should appear next to the column heading "Initiates" in Table 3. The following Tables 6-9 should be substituted for those which appeared in print. (The following abstract of this article originally appeared in record 196306064-001.) It is suggested that emotional states may be considered a function of a state of physiological arousal and of a cognition appropriate to this state of arousal. From this follows these propositions: (a) Given a state of physiological arousal for which an individual has no immediate explanation, he will label this state and describe his feelings in terms of the cognitions available to him. (b) Given a state of physiological arousal for which an individual has a completely appropriate explanation, no evaluative needs will arise and the individual is unlikely to label his feelings in terms of the alternative cognitions available. (c) Given the same cognitive circumstances, the individual will react emotionally or describe his feelings as emotions only to the extent that he experiences a state of physiological arousal. An experiment is described which, together with the results of other studies, supports these propositions. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2006 APA, all rights reserved).
A basic issue about musical emotions concerns whether music elicits emotional responses in listeners (the 'emotivist' position) or simply expresses emotions that listeners recognize in the music (the 'cognitivist' position). To address this, psychophysiological measures were recorded while listeners heard two excerpts chosen to represent each of three emotions: sad, fear, and happy. The measures covered a fairly wide spectrum of cardiac, vascular, electrodermal, and respiratory functions. Other subjects indicated dynamic changes in emotions they experienced while listening to the music on one of four scales: sad, fear, happy, and tension. Both physiological and emotion judgments were made on a second-by-second basis. The physiological measures all showed a significant effect of music compared to the pre-music interval. A number of analyses, including correlations between physiology and emotion judgments, found significant differences among the excerpts. The sad excerpts produced the largest changes in heart rate, blood pressure, skin conductance and temperature. The fear excerpts produced the largest changes in blood transit time and amplitude. The happy excerpts produced the largest changes in the measures of respiration. These emotion-specific physiological changes only partially replicated those found for non-musical emotions. The physiological effects of music observed generally support the emotivist view of musical emotions.
The purpose of this research was to construct a scale to measure the “affective value” of musical pieces and examine the relations between the scale and a multiple mood scale (MMS). In this paper, affective value refers to the quality and intensity of affect. First, 209 female junior college students rated 50 adjectives relevant to the affective tone of music on a five-point scale for five pieces of music. Factor analysis yielded five major factors, and 24 items with high loading on these factors were selected to construct the affective value scale of music (AVSM). Second, 226 female students rated both AVSM and MMS for the same five pieces. Factor analysis showed factor validity of AVSM, and Cronbach's coefficient alpha showed a high internal consistency of each sub-scale of AVSM. Principal component analysis and other analyses showed that there were significant relations between sub-scales of AVSM and MMS. Third, 38 female students rated the scales twice, and test-retest reliability was examined. The results suggest the utility of AVSM.
There are two kinds of musical emotions: perceived emotion (expressed by musical pieces) and felt emotion (induced in listeners). In this study, we hypothesized that the emotion perceived by people listening to dissonant music and music in a minor key would not necessarily correspond to the one they felt. Twenty-four participants listened to 21 newly composed musical stimuli and rated the intensities of two kinds of emotions by using a two-dimensional evaluation: valence (pleasant/unpleasant) and arousal (active/passive). ANOVA results showed that the perceived emotion did not always coincide with the felt emotion. Participants with music training listened to minor-key, dissonant, and high-note-density music and rated the felt emotion as less unpleasant or more pleasant than the perceived emotion. This finding may lead to a better understanding of why people sometimes like or otherwise enjoy sad music.