DOI: 10.1177/03057356231189680 ISSN:

Comparing effects of sad melody versus sad lyrics on mood

Nathan Pond, David Leavens
  • Psychology (miscellaneous)
  • Music

While researchers have consistently found that music can evoke discrete emotions in people cross-culturally, there is little consensus regarding the mechanisms underpinning this effect. The present study aimed to gain further insight into how music influences emotions, investigating whether the lyrics or the melody of a sad piece of non-classical music had a greater influence on mood. The researchers presented a sample of 251 participants with isolated melody, isolated lyrics, and the original version of a sad pop-ballad in turn, measuring the influence of each on mood using the Brief Mood Introspection Scale (BMIS). A one-way repeated measures ANOVA revealed that all versions of the song significantly reduced mood scores from baseline, with the isolated lyrics and original version of the song reducing mood to a greater magnitude than the melody. The results suggested that both the lyrics and melody of the music influenced mood, though the lyrics appeared to do so to a greater extent. Furthermore, a thematic analysis of open-response questions provided preliminary evidence that the semantic content of lyrics was more influential on mood than the vocal expression of lyrics. Future research should aim to replicate these findings, using both positively and negatively emotionally valenced musical stimuli.

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