Quantcast

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>>

  • New fundraising numbers in the race for Vt. Governor

    New fundraising numbers in the race for Vt. Governor

    Tuesday, September 2 2014 11:03 PM EDT2014-09-03 03:03:04 GMT
    Fundraising numbers are in from the candidates running for Vermont's top public office. Governor Peter Shumlin continues to out-raise his Republican opponent Scott Milne. Since August 15th, Governor Shumlin running for his third term in office has added 34 thousand dollars to his war chest. He's now raised over 600 thousand dollars this campaign. Scott Milne raised just 10 thousand dollars bringing his total to 53,000. The Milne campaign has now spent 8 thousand more dollars than it has broug...
    Fundraising numbers are in from the candidates running for Vermont's top public office. Governor Peter Shumlin continues to out-raise his Republican opponent Scott Milne. Since August 15th, Governor Shumlin running for his third term in office has added 34 thousand dollars to his war chest. He's now raised over 600 thousand dollars this campaign. Scott Milne raised just 10 thousand dollars bringing his total to 53,000. The Milne campaign has now spent 8 thousand more dollars than it has broug...
  • Mechanic accused of illegal car inspection ring

    Mechanic accused of illegal car inspection ring

    Tuesday, September 2 2014 11:03 PM EDT2014-09-03 03:03:01 GMT
    A Springfield mechanic is accused of operating an illegal car inspection sticker ring. 29 year old Benjamin Millay allegedly stole around 30 inspection stickers from his former employer the Springfield Auto Mart and sold them on the side to cars that otherwise would not have passed inspection. Tuesday he pleaded not guilty to a single count of embezzlement. After providing police with a written confession Millay was released to await trail. Vermont inspectors are now working to track down tho...
    A Springfield mechanic is accused of operating an illegal car inspection sticker ring. 29 year old Benjamin Millay allegedly stole around 30 inspection stickers from his former employer the Springfield Auto Mart and sold them on the side to cars that otherwise would not have passed inspection. Tuesday he pleaded not guilty to a single count of embezzlement. After providing police with a written confession Millay was released to await trail. Vermont inspectors are now working to track down tho...
  • Arson investigation underway for Dummerston church

    Arson investigation underway for Dummerston church

    Tuesday, September 2 2014 11:02 PM EDT2014-09-03 03:02:53 GMT
    An arson investigation is underway at a church in Dummerston.
    An arson investigation is underway at a church in Dummerston.
  • Autopsy confirms gender of body found in Massena

    Autopsy confirms gender of body found in Massena

    Tuesday, September 2 2014 11:02 PM EDT2014-09-03 03:02:57 GMT
    New information about a dead body discovered in Massena last week.
    New information about a dead body discovered in Massena last week.
  • Former CVU english teacher dies in Hawaii

    Former CVU english teacher dies in Hawaii

    Tuesday, September 2 2014 10:02 PM EDT2014-09-03 02:02:12 GMT
    A former Champlain Valley Union High School english teacher has died in Hawaii.
    A former Champlain Valley Union High School english teacher has died in Hawaii.
  • ISIS claims it beheaded another US journalist

    ISIS claims it beheaded another US journalist

    Tuesday, September 2 2014 7:24 PM EDT2014-09-02 23:24:15 GMT
    ISIS claims it has beheaded another United States journalist with ties to our region.
    ISIS claims it has beheaded another United States journalist with ties to our region.
  • 2nd trial begins for Vt. prison guard

    2nd trial begins for Vt. prison guard

    Tuesday, September 2 2014 12:25 PM EDT2014-09-02 16:25:40 GMT
    A prison guard accused of sexually assaulting a female inmate was back in court Tuesday.
    A prison guard accused of sexually assaulting a female inmate was back in court Tuesday.
  • Bicyclist dies after injury in Waterbury

    Bicyclist dies after injury in Waterbury

    Tuesday, September 2 2014 6:24 PM EDT2014-09-02 22:24:11 GMT
    A bicyclist has died after being injured in Waterbury.
    A bicyclist has died after being injured in Waterbury.
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.