Why do people enjoy watching sad movies so much? According to Dohyun Ahn, a student in South Korea, it’s because it helps people understand the world more. His study, which was published in the Journal of Media Psychology: Theories, Methods and Applications, explores this notion by asking 165 American college students to watch the sad movie, Angel Baby. The story is about two schizophrenic lovers Harry and Kate. After giving birth, Kate dies, leaving Harry alone to deal with the baby.
For the study, Ahn asked the mostly-female group how they felt after watching the movie and by whose story were they more moved by. After hearing their answers, Ahn concluded that sad movies help people develop a better point of view of reality. Sadness reportedly predicted how the participants saw the world.
In addition, Ahn saw a certain type of enjoyment in watching sad movies. "Roughly, enjoyment can be classified into two types. One is self-focused, and the other is other-focused. Enjoyment of sad movies are other-focused enjoyment, driven by altruistic motivation," he says.
While the group was predominantly female, Ahn believes that a male group would yield the same results. "Although males and females have different empathic tendency, the variation cannot surpass the level of being human… most humans have experiences in basic emotions such as sadness and empathy."
(Screencap of New Girl courtesy of Fox)