There’s a line in the opening scene of the film High Fidelity in which John Cusack’s sad-sap music snob protagonist morosely asks, “Did I listen to pop music because I was miserable? Or was I miserable because I listened to pop music?”
For most of us, this is a familiar sentiment: Listening to music makes us feel the entire emotional spectrum, from the “bawling by myself while watching this B-grade romcom” sad to the “my heart is about to burst” happy. But according to a new study in the journal Current Biology, there exists a very real and very sad condition called “musical anhedonia,” or the “specific inability to experience pleasure from music.” So much for learning about what your date’s taste in music says about them.
Researchers studied three groups of 10 people each, with each group consisting of participants who experienced either high, average, or low pleasure ratings in response to music. All the participants were given several reward-based tasks to complete, one of which was a music task in which they rated how much pleasure they derived from listening to pleasant music. The results: Some people who are “otherwise healthy and happy” just don’t respond to music with the same kind of pleasure rush they do to other kinds of rewards (like a monetary incentive).
Although it’s unclear from this particular study, I have to wonder if there’s a (sort-of) plus-side to musical anhedonia — if you don’t really derive pleasure from music, would it follow that you also don’t feel as many negative, musically-induced feelings, like pain or sadness? If so, science, could you please induce temporary musical anhedonia as I’m going through any and all future breakups? Thanks.
You can measure your own response to music here, and hopefully you’re not an unfeeling monster.
[h/t Science Daily]