Why sad movies make you happy - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Why sad movies make you happy

Updated:
iStockphoto.com / Brad Killer iStockphoto.com / Brad Killer


By Denise Foley
From
Completely You


In 1978, I went to see the movie The Deer Hunter with a group of friends. Around the midpoint of the film, which explored the devastating effects of the Vietnam War on a group of friends from a small industrial town in western Pennsylvania, I started to cry. By the end of the film, I was sobbing. And to my friends' embarrassment, I continued to sob even as we got into our car in the crowded parking garage. I was a mess.

Fast-forward to a year later. I am in my little apartment, doing my Saturday morning cleaning, with the TV humming in the next room. I suddenly become aware of music playing, and although I don't recognize the tune, I find my eyes filling with tears. I go to the living room to see what it is. It's a promo. For The Deer Hunter.

Fast-forward to today. In a study published in the journal Communication Research, Silvia Knobloch-Westerwick, a communications professor at Ohio State University, and colleagues found that people love sad movies because of their unlikely benefit: They can make you happy.

Knobloch-Westerwick's study involved 361 college students who watched an abridged version of the 2007 film Atonement, a film about two separated lovers who become the casualties of war. (It was drawn from the book by Ian McEwan, one of my favorite authors, though I found its overarching theme -- that one can make a mistake that reverberates over a lifetime -- far sadder than the story of doomed love.)

Before, during and after watching the film, the viewers were asked about their lives and feelings. The researcher wanted to determine how happy they were before plunging them into the big-screen chaos and tragedy, then to track their fluctuating emotions as the story unfolded and ended.

At the film's conclusion, Knobloch-Westerwick and her colleagues asked the students how much they enjoyed the movie and to write about how it led them to reflect on themselves, their lives, their relationships, and life in general.

And here's where the unexpected happened. The viewers who felt saddest while watching the movie were more likely to write about people with whom they had close relationships. That in turn increased their happiness afterward. Sad movies may make you cry, as Sue Thompson sang in her 1961 bobby-soxer hit, but they also seem to remind you that your life isn't so bad.

"People seem to use tragedies as a way to reflect on the important relationships in their own life -- to count their blessings," said Knobloch-Westerwick in an interview. "That can help explain why tragedies are so popular with audiences, despite the sadness they induce."

There might even be a chemical reason for the paradox. Across the OSU campus from Knobloch-Westerwick is David Huron, professor of arts and humanities at the School of Music and the Center for Cognitive Science. In his studies exploring the emotional effects of sad music, he found that when people are feeling sad, their bodies produce a hormone called prolactin. Yes, the same hormone linked to breastfeeding in women. He knows because he took people's blood while they were listening to sad and happy music and analyzed it. (Read a synopsis of the study here.)

Listening to sad music actually thrusts you into a "sham" state of sadness so that your body produces prolactin, nature's version of a warm hug. Huron believes that prolactin has a consoling effect that is meant to be protective.

So there you have it. In our "down the rabbit hole" world, sad is happy. I still can't watch The Deer Hunter or Old Yeller, though. I've never seen Bambi and don't plan to relive the Titanic sinking in 3D. But I do listen to sad music when I'm sad and I have to admit, it does make me feel better. In fact, I'm even a bit concerned that Adele has announced she's no longer writing sad songs. What will I do now when I have the blues? 


Copyright © 2012 Studio One Networks. All rights reserved.
*DISCLAIMER*: The information contained in or provided through this site section is intended for general consumer understanding and education only and is not intended to be and is not a substitute for professional advice. Use of this site section and any information contained on or provided through this site section is at your own risk and any information contained on or provided through this site section is provided on an "as is" basis without any representations or warranties.
  • Local NewsMore>>

  • Books over Breakfast : Monster Feet Sue's Deep Sea Adventure

    Books over Breakfast : Monster Feet Sue's Deep Sea Adventure

    Wednesday, April 23 2014 7:45 AM EDT2014-04-23 11:45:44 GMT
    Author Angie Harris and her niece 7-year-old Kelsey More discuss the book : Monster Feet Sue's Deep Sea Adventure.More >>
    Author Angie Harris and her niece 7-year-old Kelsey More discuss the book : Monster Feet Sue's Deep Sea Adventure.More >>
  • Officer involved shooting in Bennington Police Dept.

    Officer involved shooting in Bennington Police Dept.

    Wednesday, April 23 2014 12:22 AM EDT2014-04-23 04:22:02 GMT
    Police say there has been an officer involved shooting inside the Bennington Police Department. It happened just before 9 Tuesday evening. Authorities are releasing very few details. But say the Bennington Police Chief has called in the Vermont State Police to investigate after an officer allegedly shot a man in the lobby of the police station. No word yet on what prompted the shooting. The injured man was taken to a hospital. Police would not comment on the severity of his injuries. Initial ...More >>
    Police say there has been an officer involved shooting inside the Bennington Police Department. It happened just before 9 Tuesday evening. Authorities are releasing very few details. But say the Bennington Police Chief has called in the Vermont State Police to investigate after an officer allegedly shot a man in the lobby of the police station. No word yet on what prompted the shooting. The injured man was taken to a hospital. Police would not comment on the severity of his injuries. Initial ...More >>
  • Champlain College housing plans put on hold

    Champlain College housing plans put on hold

    Wednesday, April 23 2014 12:22 AM EDT2014-04-23 04:22:42 GMT
    It's a fight that's pitting Champlain College against the Queen City. The school says it's not giving up on building more student housing, even after being denied land-use permits. Years ago, the college made a commitment to create housing for all students but that goal has hit a snag, with their recent construction plans on hold.The project would create more than 300 beds for Champlain students on St. Paul Street, but the Development Review Board denied the permits the college needed based o...More >>
    It's a fight that's pitting Champlain College against the Queen City. The school says it's not giving up on building more student housing, even after being denied land-use permits. Years ago, the college made a commitment to create housing for all students but that goal has hit a snag, with their recent construction plans on hold.The project would create more than 300 beds for Champlain students on St. Paul Street, but the Development Review Board denied the permits the college needed based o...More >>
  • Burlington school budget on it's way back to voters

    Burlington school budget on it's way back to voters

    Tuesday, April 22 2014 11:56 PM EDT2014-04-23 03:56:59 GMT
    A new Burlington school budget is on its way to voters that is more expensive and has more cuts than the last version.The board of finance approved a $67.6 million budget. On Town Meeting Day voters shot down a budget that was about a million dollars less than this new budget. After a recent audit that uncovered a $2.5 million dollar deficit, the board was forced to slash $2.5 million in programming and staff. School board chair Patrick Halladay acknowledges concerns about a larger budget wit...More >>
    A new Burlington school budget is on its way to voters that is more expensive and has more cuts than the last version.The board of finance approved a $67.6 million budget. On Town Meeting Day voters shot down a budget that was about a million dollars less than this new budget. After a recent audit that uncovered a $2.5 million dollar deficit, the board was forced to slash $2.5 million in programming and staff. School board chair Patrick Halladay acknowledges concerns about a larger budget wit...More >>
  • Amphibians on the move

    Amphibians on the move

    Wednesday, April 23 2014 12:23 AM EDT2014-04-23 04:23:09 GMT
    People across the state are helping out their amphibian friends on the move. Biologists say this annual salamander crawl happens on the first warm rainy nights of spring like Tuesday night. Over half a dozen of different critters from frogs to spotted salamanders travel to breeding grounds. But often, experts say, that means crossing busy roads which can be deadly for a large number of amphibians. But groups on Pond Road in Shelburne, are giving a helping hand to get the salamanders safely ac...More >>
    People across the state are helping out their amphibian friends on the move. Biologists say this annual salamander crawl happens on the first warm rainy nights of spring like Tuesday night. Over half a dozen of different critters from frogs to spotted salamanders travel to breeding grounds. But often, experts say, that means crossing busy roads which can be deadly for a large number of amphibians. But groups on Pond Road in Shelburne, are giving a helping hand to get the salamanders safely ac...More >>
  • Vermont man accused of identity theft

    Vermont man accused of identity theft

    Wednesday, April 23 2014 12:23 AM EDT2014-04-23 04:23:34 GMT
    A Vermont man is accused of using stolen identities in a scheme to defraud banks now faces federal charges. Prosecutors say 35-year-old Brian Wyer used identities of Ohio and Kansas residents to obtain two Vermont non-driver ID cards. He then allegedly used the fraudulent IDs to open bank accounts in Massachusetts withdrawing about $75,000. Wyer was indicted in Vermont in June and taken into custody by U.S. marshals in Illinois last month. During his arraignment Monday in Burlington the judge...More >>
    A Vermont man is accused of using stolen identities in a scheme to defraud banks now faces federal charges. Prosecutors say 35-year-old Brian Wyer used identities of Ohio and Kansas residents to obtain two Vermont non-driver ID cards. He then allegedly used the fraudulent IDs to open bank accounts in Massachusetts withdrawing about $75,000. Wyer was indicted in Vermont in June and taken into custody by U.S. marshals in Illinois last month. During his arraignment Monday in Burlington the judge...More >>
  • Rutland vandals target parking meters

    Rutland vandals target parking meters

    Wednesday, April 23 2014 12:23 AM EDT2014-04-23 04:23:55 GMT
    Police say vandals in Rutland targeted several parking meters in a quest for quick cash. 11 meter locks and 12 meter cans filled with change were damaged along Merchants Row, Center Street, Court Street, Cottage Street and Justice Square parking lot. One meter pole and its vault was also destroyed. Police put damage in excess of thousand bucks. Anyone with information is asked to call Rutland City police.More >>
    Police say vandals in Rutland targeted several parking meters in a quest for quick cash. 11 meter locks and 12 meter cans filled with change were damaged along Merchants Row, Center Street, Court Street, Cottage Street and Justice Square parking lot. One meter pole and its vault was also destroyed. Police put damage in excess of thousand bucks. Anyone with information is asked to call Rutland City police.More >>
  • Vt. principal who faced criminal charges wants clearer mandatory reporting law

    Vt. principal who faced criminal charges wants clearer mandatory reporting law

    Tuesday, April 22 2014 6:53 PM EDT2014-04-22 22:53:40 GMT
    A law designed to protect kids landed a Vermont school principal in hot water. Now, Danville High School Principal Noah Noyes wants lawmakers to put the state's mandatory reporting rules under the microscope.More >>
    A law designed to protect kids landed a Vermont school principal in hot water. Now, Danville High School Principal Noah Noyes wants lawmakers to put the state's mandatory reporting rules under the microscope.More >>
Powered by WorldNow
All content © Copyright 2000 - 2014 WorldNow and WCAX. All Rights Reserved. For more information on this site, please read our Privacy Policy and Terms of Service.