If you ever worried that you were a bit odd for preferring movies that made you sniffle and cry, this might perk you up. It turns out that tragic movies actually make you happier, according to a new study in Communication Research. "This indeed justifies the whole 'needing a good cry' thing," says Rebecca Greenfield at The Atlantic. Here, a guide to this counterintuitive new research:
How was the study conducted?
The research team had 361 students at Ohio State University watch Atonement, the 2007 movie featuring two star-crossed lovers who fall victim to war. (For those wondering, "that counts as sad," says Jamie Condliffe at Gizmodo.) The researchers took note of the students' reactions before, during, and after the screening, and asked them a series of questions after the movie was over.
And watching the tearjerker made the students happy?
In some cases. The students who felt saddest during the movie reported a greater boost in happiness afterward. The theory is that more depressing movies compel people to reflect on their own lives and relationships, which are generally better off than those who suffered so tragically on screen. "Of course, if your life is in shambles, perhaps sticking to the comedy section is a good idea," says Courtney Subramanian at TIME.
What about the other students?
Students who were more inclined to think only of themselves, rather than the relationships they had with others, did not experience a feel-good vibe after the movie was over.
So we have to feel sad to feel happy?
Not necessarily. The latest study merely backs up previous research showing that sadness often leads to increased introspection and thoughtfulness. The happiness is just a welcome byproduct.
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