CKP Research Seminar: Dr. Annemieke Van den Tol, ‘A Self-Regulatory Perspective on Choosing ‘Sad’ Music as a Means for Acceptance-Based Coping’

You are invited to the first Centre for Cognition, Kinaesthetics and Performance Research Seminar of this term, Thursday 27th February at 6pm in Jarman Studio 2:


Dr. Annemieke Van den Tol, ‘A Self-Regulatory Perspective on Choosing ‘Sad’ Music as a Means for Acceptance-Based Coping’


Many people choose to listen to SISM (self-identified sad music) when they experience negative life circumstances (Saarikallio and Erkkilä, 2007; Van den Tol and Edwards, 2011). Music listening in such circumstances can serve a variety of important self-regulatory goals. One fascinating finding of previous research on SISM when feeling sad it that people’s most important self-regulatory reason for doing so is in order ‘to be in touch or express feelings of sadness’ (Van den Tol & Edwards, 2011). But why would people who are already feeling sad want to do so?

Current research 
McFarland and Buehler (1997) indicated that people in a negative affective state may first need to acknowledge their negative feelings before being able to move on to a more positive state. Moreover, research has already firmly established the importance of acceptance of negative feelings and thoughts in terms of mental health outcomes (Bond & Bunce, 2003; Hayes, Strosahl, & Wilson, 1999). As part of the current research we hence anticipated that: being in touch with feeling of sadness would provide an opportunity to accept one’s negative emotions and thoughts.

Participants (N = 220) recalled an adverse emotional event after which they had listened to SISM when experiencing sadness, and then rated several statements in relation to their music listening experiences. The content of these statements were based on insight from the previous research on listening to sad music when feeling sad.

As a result of several parallel multiple mediation analyses (Preacher, & Hayes, 2008) it was found that using the music to get in touch with and express feelings of sadness was the most important self-regulatory goal and self-regulatory effect through which people could experience acceptance of feeling and thoughts.

Based on these results it seems that many cases in which people decide to listen to SISM when feeling sad can be interpreted as an attempt to accept negative feelings and thoughts. The current research provides promising possibilities for future research about music listening and mental health.

Dr. Annemieke Van den Tol is a Lecturer in Social Psychology at the University of Kent, where the main themes of her research are self-regulation, stress, coping, emotions, cognition, perception, personality and social identity. In much of her research to date she has examined the psychological importance of music in life, with a key interest in people’s reasons for listening to music, as well as in people’s reaction to hearing music.