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Mood-Congruency versus Mood-Incongruency in Aesthetic Preferences: The Role of Interpersonal Relationships


Whereas negative feelings sometimes increase preference for mood-incongruent aesthetic experiences (e.g., cheerful music, comedy), they also sometimes increase preference for mood-congruent ones (e.g., sorrowful music, drama). In this paper, we address the causes of this apparent discrepancy. We hypothesize that (1) mood-congruent aesthetic experiences offer a sense of bonding and emotional sharing, akin to interacting with an empathetic friend and thus (2) they are preferred when individuals are deprived of a sense of bonding from dissolving interpersonal relationships. Consistent with our hypotheses, three experiments show that negative feelings from broken interpersonal bonds increase preferences for mood-congruent aesthetic experiences, whereas negative feelings from non-interpersonal problems increase mood-incongruent preferences. Our results also help account for the inconsistencies in the literature.

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