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Concept: Emotions


In general, sad music is thought to cause us to experience sadness, which is considered an unpleasant emotion. As a result, the question arises as to why we listen to sad music if it evokes sadness. One possible answer to this question is that we may actually feel positive emotions when we listen to sad music. This suggestion may appear to be counterintuitive; however, in this study, by dividing musical emotion into perceived emotion and felt emotion, we investigated this potential emotional response to music. We hypothesized that felt and perceived emotion may not actually coincide in this respect: sad music would be perceived as sad, but the experience of listening to sad music would evoke positive emotions. A total of 44 participants listened to musical excerpts and provided data on perceived and felt emotions by rating 62 descriptive words or phrases related to emotions on a scale that ranged from 0 (not at all) to 4 (very much). The results revealed that the sad music was perceived to be more tragic, whereas the actual experiences of the participants listening to the sad music induced them to feel more romantic, more blithe, and less tragic emotions than they actually perceived with respect to the same music. Thus, the participants experienced ambivalent emotions when they listened to the sad music. After considering the possible reasons that listeners were induced to experience emotional ambivalence by the sad music, we concluded that the formulation of a new model would be essential for examining the emotions induced by music and that this new model must entertain the possibility that what we experience when listening to music is vicarious emotion.

Concepts: Psychology, Experience, Emotion, Music, Feeling, Emotions, Maurice White, Ambivalence


Reactions to memorable experiences of sad music were studied by means of a survey administered to a convenience (N = 1577), representative (N = 445), and quota sample (N = 414). The survey explored the reasons, mechanisms, and emotions of such experiences. Memorable experiences linked with sad music typically occurred in relation to extremely familiar music, caused intense and pleasurable experiences, which were accompanied by physiological reactions and positive mood changes in about a third of the participants. A consistent structure of reasons and emotions for these experiences was identified through exploratory and confirmatory factor analyses across the samples. Three types of sadness experiences were established, one that was genuinely negative (Grief-Stricken Sorrow) and two that were positive (Comforting Sorrow and Sweet Sorrow). Each type of emotion exhibited certain individual differences and had distinct profiles in terms of the underlying reasons, mechanisms, and elicited reactions. The prevalence of these broad types of emotional experiences suggested that positive experiences are the most frequent, but negative experiences were not uncommon in any of the samples. The findings have implications for measuring emotions induced by music and fiction in general, and call attention to the non-pleasurable aspects of these experiences.

Concepts: Psychology, Neuroscience, Emotion, Confirmatory factor analysis, Emotion and memory, Feeling, Mood, Emotions


Takotsubo syndrome (TTS) is typically provoked by negative stressors such as grief, anger, or fear leading to the popular term ‘broken heart syndrome’. However, the role of positive emotions triggering TTS remains unclear. The aim of the present study was to analyse the prevalence and characteristics of patients with TTS following pleasant events, which are distinct from the stressful or undesirable episodes commonly triggering TTS.

Concepts: Anxiety, Present, Time, Psychiatry, Emotion, Paul Ekman, Feeling, Emotions


Efficient detection and reaction to negative signals in the environment is essential for survival. In social situations, these signals are often ambiguous and can imply different levels of threat for the observer, thereby making their recognition susceptible to contextual cues - such as gaze direction when judging facial displays of emotion. However, the mechanisms underlying such contextual effects remain poorly understood. By computational modeling of human behavior and electrical brain activity, we demonstrate that gaze direction enhances the perceptual sensitivity to threat-signaling emotions - anger paired with direct gaze, and fear paired with averted gaze. This effect arises simultaneously in ventral face-selective and dorsal motor cortices at 200 ms following face presentation, dissociates across individuals as a function of anxiety, and does not reflect increased attention to threat-signaling emotions. These findings reveal that threat tunes neural processing in fast, selective, yet attention-independent fashion in sensory and motor systems, for different adaptive purposes.

Concepts: Psychology, Brain, Neuroscience, Sense, Behavior, Human behavior, Fear, Emotions


Life satisfaction refers to a somewhat stable cognitive assessment of one’s own life. Life satisfaction is an important component of subjective well being, the scientific term for happiness. The other component is affect: the balance between the presence of positive and negative emotions in daily life. While affect has been studied using social media datasets (particularly from Twitter), life satisfaction has received little to no attention. Here, we examine trends in posts about life satisfaction from a two-year sample of Twitter data. We apply a surveillance methodology to extract expressions of both satisfaction and dissatisfaction with life. A noteworthy result is that consistent with their definitions trends in life satisfaction posts are immune to external events (political, seasonal etc.) unlike affect trends reported by previous researchers. Comparing users we find differences between satisfied and dissatisfied users in several linguistic, psychosocial and other features. For example the latter post more tweets expressing anger, anxiety, depression, sadness and on death. We also study users who change their status over time from satisfied with life to dissatisfied or vice versa. Noteworthy is that the psychosocial tweet features of users who change from satisfied to dissatisfied are quite different from those who stay satisfied over time. Overall, the observations we make are consistent with intuition and consistent with observations in the social science research. This research contributes to the study of the subjective well being of individuals through social media.

Concepts: Scientific method, Psychology, Sociology, Science, Personal life, Happiness, Emotions, Twitter


People sometimes experience a strong emotional response to artworks. Previous studies have demonstrated that the peak emotional experience of chills (goose bumps or shivers) when listening to music involves psychophysiological arousal and a rewarding effect. However, many aspects of peak emotion are still not understood. The current research takes a new perspective of peak emotional response of tears (weeping, lump in the throat). A psychophysiological experiment showed that self-reported chills increased electrodermal activity and subjective arousal whereas tears produced slow respiration during heartbeat acceleration, although both chills and tears induced pleasure and deep breathing. A song that induced chills was perceived as being both happy and sad whereas a song that induced tears was perceived as sad. A tear-eliciting song was perceived as calmer than a chill-eliciting song. These results show that tears involve pleasure from sadness and that they are psychophysiologically calming; thus, psychophysiological responses permit the distinction between chills and tears. Because tears may have a cathartic effect, the functional significance of chills and tears seems to be different. We believe that the distinction of two types of peak emotions is theoretically relevant and further study of tears would contribute to more understanding of human peak emotional response.

Concepts: Psychology, Understanding, Perception, Emotion, Respiration, Emotions, Sadness, Crying


Understanding the different categories of facial expressions of emotion regularly used by us is essential to gain insights into human cognition and affect as well as for the design of computational models and perceptual interfaces. Past research on facial expressions of emotion has focused on the study of six basic categories-happiness, surprise, anger, sadness, fear, and disgust. However, many more facial expressions of emotion exist and are used regularly by humans. This paper describes an important group of expressions, which we call compound emotion categories. Compound emotions are those that can be constructed by combining basic component categories to create new ones. For instance, happily surprised and angrily surprised are two distinct compound emotion categories. The present work defines 21 distinct emotion categories. Sample images of their facial expressions were collected from 230 human subjects. A Facial Action Coding System analysis shows the production of these 21 categories is different but consistent with the subordinate categories they represent (e.g., a happily surprised expression combines muscle movements observed in happiness and surprised). We show that these differences are sufficient to distinguish between the 21 defined categories. We then use a computational model of face perception to demonstrate that most of these categories are also visually discriminable from one another.

Concepts: Psychology, Cognition, Perception, Emotion, Face, Paul Ekman, Computational model, Emotions


Previous research has shown that in response to a monotonous, boring lab situation, non-clinical participants voluntarily self-administer electric shocks. The shocks probably served to disrupt the tedious monotony: they were the only available external source of stimulation. Alternatively, the shocks might have functioned to regulate the negative emotional experience caused by the induction of boredom, consistent with theories on the function of non-suicidal self-injury (NSSI). According to this latter explanation, induction of other negative emotions would also increase the administration of shocks. To test this explanation, 69 participants watched a monotonous, sad or neutral film fragment, during which they could self-administer electric shocks. Participants in the boredom condition self-administered more shocks and with higher intensity, compared to both the neutral and sadness condition. Sadness had no effect on the self-administration of shocks. The effect of boredom was more pronounced in participants with a history of NSSI: they administered more shocks in the first 15min. The results indicate that the shocks function to disrupt monotony and not to regulate negative emotional experience in general. Moreover, boredom appears an important impetus for NSSI.

Concepts: Explanation, Emotion, Suffering, Self-harm, Boredom, Emotions, Sadness, Mortification of the flesh


Seligman recently introduced the PERMA model with five core elements of psychological well-being: positive emotions, engagement, relationships, meaning, and accomplishment. We empirically tested this multidimensional theory with 516 Australian male students (age 13-18). From an extensive well-being assessment, we selected a subset of items theoretically relevant to PERMA. Factor analyses recovered four of the five PERMA elements, and two ill-being factors (depression and anxiety). We then explored the nomological net surrounding each factor by examining cross-sectional associations with life satisfaction, hope, gratitude, school engagement, growth mindset, spirituality, physical vitality, physical activity, somatic symptoms, and stressful life events. Factors differentially related to these correlates, offering support for the multidimensional approach to measuring well-being. Directly assessing subjective well-being across multiple domains offers the potential for schools to more systematically understand and promote well-being.

Concepts: Psychology, Education, Psychometrics, Factor analysis, Meaning of life, Positive psychology, Emotions, Positive mental attitude


People frequently feel anxious. Although prior research has extensively studied how feeling anxious shapes intrapsychic aspects of cognition, much less is known about how anxiety affects interpersonal aspects of cognition. Here, we examine the influence of incidental experiences of anxiety on perceptual and conceptual forms of perspective taking. Compared with participants experiencing other negative, high-arousal emotions (i.e., anger or disgust) or neutral feelings, anxious participants displayed greater egocentrism in their mental-state reasoning: They were more likely to describe an object using their own spatial perspective, had more difficulty resisting egocentric interference when identifying an object from others' spatial perspectives, and relied more heavily on privileged knowledge when inferring others' beliefs. Using both experimental-causal-chain and measurement-of-mediation approaches, we found that these effects were explained, in part, by uncertainty appraisal tendencies. Further supporting the role of uncertainty, a positive emotion associated with uncertainty (i.e., surprise) produced increases in egocentrism that were similar to anxiety. Collectively, the results suggest that incidentally experiencing emotions associated with uncertainty increase reliance on one’s own egocentric perspective when reasoning about the mental states of others. (PsycINFO Database Record © 2015 APA, all rights reserved).

Concepts: Psychology, Cognition, Experience, Knowledge, Emotion, Feeling, Emotions, Egocentrism