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The Science of Sadness: A New Understanding of Emotion

The Science of Sadness: A New Understanding of Emotion

Current price: $50.00
Publication Date: May 7th, 2024
The MIT Press
Available for Preorder


An accessible, scientific account of grief, melancholy, and nostalgia in human life and their broader lessons for understanding emotions in general.

The Science of Sadness proposes an original scientific account of grief, melancholy, and nostalgia, advocating a unique ethological approach to these familiar, woeful emotions. One of the leading scholars in the psychology of music and music cognition, David Huron draws on hundreds of studies from physiology, medicine, neuroscience, psychology, anthropology, and the arts to resolve long-standing problems that have stymied modern emotion research. A careful examination of sadness-related behaviors reveals their biological and social functions, which Huron uses to formulate a new theory about how emotions in general are displayed and interpreted.

We’ve all shed tears of joy, tears of grief, tears of pain. While different emotions often share the same weepy display, Huron identifies the single function that unites them. He suggests how weeping emerged over the course of human evolution, explores the contrasting cultural manifestations of sadness, and chronicles humanity’s changing interpretations of sadness over time. Huron also explains the various ways cultures recruit and reshape involuntary emotional displays for different social purposes, and he offers a compelling narrative of what makes tragic arts so appealing. Though sadness is typically regarded as the very antithesis of happiness, The Science of Sadness draws attention to the important roles that grief, melancholy, and nostalgia play in human well-being.

About the Author

David Huron is Arts and Humanities Distinguished Professor Emeritus in the School of Music and at the Center for Cognitive and Brain Sciences at the The Ohio State University. His previous books include Sweet Anticipation and Voice Leading (both MIT Press).