People experiencing relationship problems are more likely to
prefer aesthetic experiences that reflect their negative mood, according to a
new study in the Journal of Consumer
"Emotional experiences of aesthetic products are
important to our happiness and well-being. Music, movies, paintings, or novels
that are compatible with our current mood and feelings, akin to an empathic
friend, are more appreciated when we experience broken or failing
relationships," write authors Chan Jean Lee (KAIST Business School),
Eduardo B. Andrade (FGV School of Administration), and Stephen E. Palmer
(University of California, Berkeley).
Cheerful music when
Consumers experience serious emotional distress when
intimate relationships are broken, and look for a surrogate to replace the lost
personal bond. Prior research has reported that consumers in a negative mood
prefer pleasant, positive aesthetic experiences (cheerful music; fun comedies)
to counter their negative feelings.
However, under certain circumstances, consumers in negative moods
might choose aesthetic experiences consistent with their mood (sad music;
tear-jerking dramas) even when more pleasant alternatives are also available.
In one study, consumers were presented with various
frustrating situations and asked to rate angry music relative to joyful or
relaxing music. Consumers liked angry music more when they were frustrated by
interpersonal violations (being interrupted; someone always being late) than by
impersonal hassles (no internet connection; natural disaster).
In another study, consumers were asked to recall experiences
involving loss. Preference for sad music was significantly higher when they had
experienced an interpersonal loss (losing a personal relationship) versus an
impersonal loss (losing a competition).
"Interpersonal relationships influence consumer
preference for aesthetic experiences. Consumers seek and experience emotional
companionship with music, films, novels, and the fine arts as a substitute for
lost and troubled relationships," the authors conclude.