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Running head: P435: MOOD MUSIC 1

April 29, 2015

Mood Music:

The Effects of Mood State upon Responses to Affective Musical Cues

Geoffrey D. Trowbridge

with Dr. Igor Juricevic

Indiana University South Bend, South Bend, Indiana


Studies have shown that listeners routinely prefer happy-sounding music over sad-

sounding music. However, anecdotal evidence suggests that sad-sounding music has a greater

appeal for listeners in a negative mood state. We attempted to verify this by noting differences

in perceived emotion, emotional response, and likability scores reported by listeners of music

with varying affective cues, with an induced happy or sad mood state as the between-subjects

independent variable. We also noted which affective cues (tempo or mode) had more significant

main effects. We discovered that tempo has a much more significant effect upon perception and

response than does mode, supporting the theory that arousal levels are the preferred explanation

for the affective properties of music. However, among listeners in a sad mood state, minor-mode

music produces a more positive affective response than it does for those in a happy mood state,

though not enough to overcome the inherent bias for major mode. Ultimately, the average

listener will show a selective preference for up-tempo, major-mode music, regardless of mood

state; therefore no inferences can be made regarding the mood state of a listener who prefers sad-

sounding music in a specific context.



Throughout recorded history, music has had a complex interrelationship with human

emotion. In nearly all known cultures, music has been a central component of spiritual worship,

meditation practices, courting rituals, social gatherings and pure performance art. As early as the

5th century B.C.E., the Chinese philosopher Confucius said, Music produces a kind of pleasure

that human nature cannot do without. Most will recall the oft-quoted (and misquoted)

declaration of 17th century playwright William Congreve, Music has charms to soothe the

savage breast. Today, these tenets (along with many others) form the basis for the practice of

Music Therapy, where music-based interventions are utilized to address the emotional and/or

cognitive needs of clients (Miller, 2011).

Given the ubiquitous presence of music in our daily lives and our continuous exposure to

different genre and styles, most of us can easily attest to the effects of diverse types of music

upon our emotions in varying circumstances. We have learned to associate certain musical

characteristics with particular mood states, and can usually identify them. In some cases we go

as far as to associate a particular piece of music with a past life event, invoking the same

emotions that were felt at the time. Often we will peruse our own music library, making

deliberate choices regarding which selection will provide us with the greatest amount of

satisfaction at a given moment. Despite all of this, the precise relationship between music and

human emotion remains poorly understood. This presents a problem for the nascent field of

music therapy, where music is a critical tool for the modification of a clients emotional state as

part of the therapeutic process. Certainly one can appreciate the value of experimental research

in developing any reliable procedure for treatment of mental health issues; nonetheless, only

recently have the emotional effects of music been experimentally tested and evaluated in earnest

under controlled conditions.

As recently as 2010, Hunter et. al. began using randomized controlled trials to verify and

quantify the self-reported emotional effects of different musical styles upon individuals. The

participants were asked to listen to various excerpts of classical music and to rate their

perception of the mood of the piece (happy/sad), the effect of the music upon their own mood

(happy/sad), and whether they personally liked the music (like/dislike). Perhaps not surprisingly,

positive correlations were reported between the participants (objective) perceptions of how

happy a particular excerpt sounded and the (subjective) positive feelings it evoked; likewise,

perceptions of sadness in music were positively correlated with the listeners feelings of sadness.

However, when participants rated how well they liked a particular piece of music, the

results for sad-sounding music were inconclusive. As sad feelings or perceived sadness

increased, liking and disliking ratings became more mixed. These results seem to contradict the

accepted notion that sadness is a disagreeable state of mind, not to be liked but rather to be

avoided. Happy-sounding music, on the other hand, did positively correlate with listeners liking

ratings. However, in a separate study, the bias for happy music was eliminated when the listener

was distracted or experiencing mental fatigue (Schellenberg et. al., 2008).

The listeners apparent ambivalence toward sad-sounding music suggests that other

contextual factors may be in play when judging its appeal specifically those factors that may

override the inherent bias for happy-sounding music. Obviously a great deal of sad music has

been commercially successful, and anecdotal evidence suggests that people in a negative mood

state often deliberately seek out sad music for reasons that have yet to be adequately explored.

Experimentally, we must seek to verify if indeed the appeal of sad music increases when

listeners are in a negative mood state, and if so, we must then attempt to explain this

phenomenon using valid theoretical research.

In order to operationally distinguish happy music from sad music in our hypotheses,

we must rely upon quantifiable characteristics within the music that consistently correlate with

listeners cognitive evaluations of the mood of a given song. This perceived affect has been

shown to arise from a combination of mode and tempo (Dalla Bella et. al., 2001). Mode

indicates whether the key of a particular piece is major or minor, delineating which seven

notes of the twelve-tone chromatic scale are primarily used to construct the melodies and

harmonies. Traditionally, major mode has been associated with happier music, utilizing a

brighter, more consonant tonality; and minor mode with sadder music, featuring a more

dissonant tonal center. Tempo refers to the pace of music measured in beats per minute. Faster

tempo has traditionally been associated with happiness, and slower tempo with sadness, although

this relationship is probably less consistentfast tempo could associate with anger, or slow

tempo with tranquility. Other research has shown that manipulation of mode in music can have a

direct effect upon the listeners mood, whereas manipulation of tempo can affect arousal.

(Husain, et. al., 2002)

Based upon this evidence, Schellenberg et. al. (2008) theorized that those whose musical

preferences are affected to a greater degree by modality are demonstrating mood congruency

that a negative mood state enhances liking for music with sad affect. One might speculate that

the synergy between the music and the mood of the listener is comforting, or produces a cathartic

effect. Alternately, those who are affected by tempo would be experiencing a corresponding

increase or reduction in arousal levels. Thus fast-tempo music would enhance positive feelings,

while slow-tempo music could produce a calming effect upon those who are in an agitated or

distressed mental state. Either of these factors could potentially influence emotion perception

and likability of the music being heard. The impact of each of these factors can be tested

experimentally in a controlled study by exposing the participants to various musical excerpts,

selected to provide variation of both mood and tempo in differing combinations, and allowing

the listener to (objectively) rate the perceived emotion of the piece, as well as the (subjective)

effect upon the listeners mood. Another important dependent variable would be a self-reported

(subjective) measure of how much the participant liked the particular piece. Control can be

achieved by deliberate manipulation of the participants mood prior to the evaluations. We

would then examine the impact and interaction of all three factors (mood, mode and tempo) to

determine if correlations exist, with particular focus upon the impact of sad-sounding music.

If preference is better explained by mood congruency, then modality should affect

perceptions while tempo does not. Conversely, if preference is better explained by arousal

levels, then tempo should affect perceptions while modality does not. These results may provide

a cognitive and/or physiological explanation for music preferences, particularly the assumption

that sad music is comforting to those who, due to external circumstances, find themselves in a

negative mood state. In turn, this should inform the practices and techniques utilized in Music

Therapy and/or any application where an understanding of the emotional impact of music is

critical for achieving a desired goal.


Participants: 39 subjects were recruited from the student rosters of undergraduate

Psychology classes at Indiana University South Bend (36 women, 3 men). Students in

participating course sections were offered course credit for participation, with the alternative

option to earn equivalent credit by doing coursework unrelated to participation in research. In

addition, 30 subjects were recruited via online social media networks (18 women, 12 men) and

were offered no compensation. All subjects were required to be 18 years of age and to give

consent online; no other qualifiers were used. The mean age of all subjects was 33.6; the median

age was 25 (range 18-67, SD =15.92).

Apparatus: Data was collected via an online Qualtrics survey

( Student access to the survey and associated course credit was

administered via the IUSB Sona Systems software ( Participants

were permitted to take the survey at a time and place of their own choosing, using any available

computer with access to the Internet and sound capability.

Stimuli: Participants were randomly selected for priming into a happy or a sad mood

state. Priming was achieved using one of two short stories, originally developed for a University

of Virginia study by Dr. Ralph Erber (1991) and used with permission here, each describing

experiences of a young female art student. One story induced a positive mood state by

describing a sequence of fortunate events, culminating in the receipt of a scholarship. The other

story induced a negative mood state by describing how the woman lost her ability to create art

due to a rare debilitating case of rheumatoid arthritis. (See Appendix 2.) In addition to viewing

the text of the selected story, participants were given the option to listen to a recorded narration

by clicking a play button in an embedded media player.

The test stimuli consisted of 28 musical excerpts from commercially-available

recordings, each approximately 30 seconds in length. (See Appendix 1.) The excerpts were

stored as MP3 files and streamed from the Qualtrics server as embedded audio in the surveys

web pages. One-fourth (7) of the excerpts were selected to provide consistently positive

affective cues, with a major mode and a fast tempo. One-fourth (7) were selected to provide

consistently negative affective cues, with a minor mode and a slow tempo. The remainder

provided mixed cues, with one-fourth (7) having a major mode and slow tempo, and one-fourth

(7) having a minor mode and fast tempo.

The musical selections were chosen from a wide variety of genre and styles, and all

excerpts were instrumental (i.e., no vocalized words) to avoid any possible affective influence of

lyrical content. For each selected artist or composer, two songs were chosen: one to offer

consistent affective cues (fast/major or slow/minor) and one to offer mixed affective cues

(fast/minor or slow/major). 17 of the 28 selections had been used previously by Hunter,

Schellenberg and Schimmack (2008) in a study using similar stimuli.

Note that no absolute threshold was used to categorize tempo as fast or slow, nor was

modality always purely classified according to Western rules of major or minor keys (e.g.,

mixolydian mode was classified as major despite having a dropped seventh tone of the scale).

The full list of selections is given in the appendix.

Procedure: At the onset of the online survey, participants were randomly selected by the

Qualtrics software to be primed into a happy or a sad mood state. The text of the appropriate

story was presented to the subject, along with an option to click a playback button on an

embedded audio player if the subject also wished to listen to a recorded narration. At the end of

the story, the subject was asked to rate how the story made them feel on a seven-point Likert

scale, with scoring assigned in a range from 1 to 7 (Very sad=1, Moderately sad=2, Slightly

sad=3, Neutral=4, Slightly happy=5, Moderately happy=6, Very happy=7).

Following the response to the priming story, the subject was presented with the 28

selected musical excerpts, sequentially and in a randomized order. Each excerpt was presented

in its own page on the online survey via an embedded audio player set to automatically begin

playing. For each selection, the subject was asked to listen to the audio clip in its entirety and

then to answer three associated questions: How did the music SOUND? (using the

aforementioned 7-point Likert scale), How did the music make you FEEL? (again, using the

same scale) and How much did you LIKE the music? (using a five-point scale, with scoring

assigned as: Not at all=1, Slightly=2, Moderately=3, Very=4, Extremely=5). The subject would

then click a next button to proceed to the next selection. For any unanswered questions, the

subject was asked to confirm that they did not wish to answer, but submitting a response was not

required to proceed.

At the conclusion of the 28 musical excerpts, the subject was thanked for their

participation. As a courtesy, the subject was then permitted to watch a YouTube video of babies,

puppies and kittens, to help ensure that the subject would conclude the study in a positive mood



The main focus of the study relies upon the differences in mood state between the two

primed mood groups. Based upon the participants self-reported mood induction scores, the

priming stories were very effective, t(67) = 14.68, p < .001. The happy story consistently evoked

much happier scores (n=36, M = 6.06, SD = .92), while the sad story evoked much sadder scores

(n=33, M = 2.39, SD = 1.14).

The three dependent variables in the main study, measured within both groups via

identical stimuli but in randomized order, were self-reported as the perceived emotional content

of various musical excerpts (i.e., How did the music SOUND?), the emotional response to the

excerpts (i.e., How did the music make you FEEL?) and the personal likability of the excerpts

(i.e., How much did you LIKE the music?). The first two scores for each unique musical

excerpt were reported on a 7-point scale, and the last on a 5-point scale. For each of the three

questions, a mean score was computed for each of the four music types presented (fast/major,

fast/minor, slow/major and slow/minor), for a total of twelve scores per subject.

As appropriate, t-tests were used to find significant differences in the means, while

mixed-model ANOVAs were used to test for significant interactions between the three

independent variables (2 x 2 x 2 = mood [happy/sad], tempo [fast/slow] and mode

[major/minor]), with mood as a between-subjects factor, and with tempo and mode as within-

subjects factors. Significance was assumed to be achieved at = .05.

Incomplete surveys were included in the data set if and only if the subject provided at

least one score for each of the twelve measured interactions. Participants with discarded data

were not represented in the reported sample size.

Perceived emotion

Table 1:
Summary values for perceived emotion by primed mood state
Music type Story type Mean Std. Dev. Std. Error
fast/major happy 5.956 .743 .124
sad 5.746 .641 .112
fast/minor happy 4.897 .692 .115
sad 5.109 .572 .100
slow/major happy 3.798 .700 .117
sad 3.752 .513 .089
slow/minor happy 2.796 .788 .131
sad 2.827 .651 .113

When analyzing main effects, as expected, music with consistently positive affective cues

(fast tempo/major mode) had much happier mean perception ratings than music with consistently

negative affective cues (slow tempo/minor mode), both in the happy group, t(35) = 14.45, p <

.001, and in the sad group, t(32) = 14.86, p < .001. Perhaps less expected, a comparison of the

responses to the mixed affective cues (fast/minor vs. slow/major) shows tempo having a much

greater impact on mood perception than mode, with significantly happier scores for the

fast/minor interaction both in the happy group, t(35) = 6.42, p < .001, as well as in the sad group,

t(32) = 9.61, p < .001.

Figure 1. Bar chart showing mean scores and SE for perceived

emotion by primed mood state, with trendlines to show mean

When testing for interactions among the three factors (mood, tempo and mode), the mood

induction had no significant effect upon perception scores as a function of tempo, F(1,67) = .002,

nor of mode, F(1, 67) = 2.85, although the latter began to approach significance, p = .096.

However, a significant three-way interaction was observed among all factors, F(1, 67) = 4.15, p

= .046. Post-hoc testing revealed that ratings between subjects differed significantly as a

function of mode with fast-tempo music, F(1, 67) = 7.89, p = .007, but not with slow-tempo

music, F(1, 67) = .17, p = .681. When looking exclusively at the results for fast-tempo music,

the sad subjects ratings for major mode selections were lower than the ratings given by happy

subjects (MD = -.210, SEdiff = .168), and the sad subjects ratings for minor mode selections were

higher than the ratings given by happy subjects (MD = .212, SEdiff = .154). However, when

looking exclusively at scores for slow-tempo music, the ratings of happy vs. sad groups were not

noticeably different (MD < .05). While the mean differences in the fast-tempo scores were not

individually significant, the combined crossover effect was highly significant.

Emotional response

Table 2:
Summary values for emotional response by primed mood state
Music type Story type Mean Std. Dev. Std. Error
fast/major happy 5.236 .697 .116
sad 4.976 .527 .092
fast/minor happy 4.539 .513 .086
sad 4.669 .425 .074
slow/major happy 3.996 .547 .091
sad 3.920 .565 .098
slow/minor happy 3.376 .689 .115
sad 3.458 .675 .117

Within the subjects self-reported emotional responses, once again the musical selections

with paired positive stimuli (fast/major) had much happier ratings than those with paired

negative stimuli (slow/minor), both in the happy group, t(35) = 9.93, p < .001, as well as the sad

group, t(32) = 10.49, p < .001. Also as before, tempo had a more significant impact upon

responses in the mixed stimuli conditions, with fast/minor selections scoring significantly higher

than slow/major selections in both the happy group, t(35) = 4.27, p < .001, and in the sad group,

t(32) = 7.18, p < .001.

Figure 2. Bar chart showing mean scores and SE for emotional

response by primed mood state, with trendlines to show mean

The ANOVA test once again revealed no significant effect of tempo as a result of the

mood induction, F(1, 67) = 0.17; however a significant interaction was found between mood

state and mode, F(1, 67) = 5.09, p = .027. The three-way interaction for this measure was not

significant, F(1, 67) = 1.90, p = .173, indicating that the effect of the mood induction upon the

subjects emotional response to changes in mode was consistent across all selections, regardless

of tempo. As before, sad subjects gave sadder ratings for major-mode selections than did the

happy subjects, but this time the effect was observed both for fast tempo (MD = -.261, SEdiff =

.150) and for slow tempo selections (MD = -.076, SEdiff = .134); conversely, once again the sad

subjects rated minor-mode selections as happier than did the happy subjects, both for fast-tempo

(MD = .130, SEdiff = .114) and for slow-tempo selections (MD = .082, SEdiff = .164). Also as

before, the individual mean differences were not significant, but significance was achieved via

the crossover interaction.

Liking ratings

Table 3:
Summary values for liking ratings by primed mood state
Music type Story type Mean Std. Dev. Std. Error
fast/major happy 3.025 .861 .143
sad 2.918 .611 .106
fast/minor happy 2.729 .746 .124
sad 2.604 .665 .116
slow/major happy 2.750 .797 .133
sad 2.609 .654 .114
slow/minor happy 2.732 .800 .133
sad 2.526 .782 .136

Despite the expectation that positive emotional responses would correlate with the more

subjective likability ratings of musical selections, instead we observed that only music with

paired positive affective cues (fast/major) were rated as significantly more likable than any other

combinations of tempo and mode (all t > 4, p < .05 for all possible pairings, in both the happy

and the sad groups).

Figure 3. Bar chart showing mean scores and SE for liking ratings
by primed mood state.

Scores in the sad group were lower across all conditions, but not significantly so.

Variances were lower in the sad group (a trend also observed among the other dependent

variables), including a significantly lower variance in the fast/major scores (W = 4.12, p = .046).

The ANOVA test revealed no significant interactions among any of the three factors.


Our between-subjects design served to eliminate any potential repeated testing effects

across the mood conditions, and our successful mood induction procedure lends validity to the

differences in responses between our randomized testing groups. Our results revealed significant

interactions between mood state and the perceptions of, and emotional responses to, modality in

music, though not enough to overcome a seemingly inherent bias for positive affective cues,

particularly with respect to tempo.


Consistent with prior research, main effects revealed significantly higher scores for music

with paired positive affective cues (fast/major) in each of the three measured dependent

variables, regardless of mood state. Surprisingly, however, the results for music with mixed

affective cues (fast/minor and slow/major) revealed significantly higher (i.e., happier) mean

emotion perception and response scores for the fast/minor pairing than the slow/major pairing,

suggesting that tempo has a much more pronounced main effect than does mode. This in turn

supports the theory that arousal level, and not mood congruency, is the preferred explanation for

the affective properties of music, and presents an opportunity for further research involving

physiological measures of arousal and any potential correlation with music perception.

Despite this, when looking for interactions brought about as a result of our mood priming

intervention, the subtler but significant relationship between mode and mood state began to

reveal itself. We discovered that, when the tempo of a musical selection is fast, subjects who are

sad will perceive major mode music as sadder, and will perceive minor mode music as happier,

than it is perceived by those who are happy. However, this effect is not observed when the

tempo is slow. We might speculate that fast tempo music increases arousal levels, therefore

heightening the senses, which makes one more perceptive to changes in mode. The altered

perceptions could suggest a mood congruency effect, whereby perceived emotion is happier

when the mode matches the mood of the listener, and sadder when the mode and mood state are

in conflict.

The same effect of mode as a function of mood state was observed in the scores for

emotional response, only this time the effect was significant regardless of the tempo of the

music. This suggests that modality can influence the emotional response of the listener even

when he/she does not objectively note any difference in the perceived affect of the music

resulting from mood. Such a phenomenon merits further study as those who practice music

therapy seek to better understand the effects of musical interventions upon clients in varying

mood states.

Despite these significant findings, the initial research questions regarding preferences for

sad music in specific contexts remain largely unanswered. Likability scores revealed a selective

preference for up-tempo, major-mode music regardless of mood state, whereas no significant

differences were observed in likability between all other music types. Although we observed

positive effects in emotional response to minor-mode music for subjects in a sad mood state, the

mean likability scores for all music types were not significantly impacted by the mood induction.

Without evidence of a preference for sad-sounding music among sad listeners, we can make no

conclusions regarding why a particular individual might prefer listening to sad-sounding music,

except that we should seek another explanation besides the individuals mood state. In itself, this

may be a significant finding, as it contradicts the conventional belief that some listeners prefer

sad music because they are sad.

We must acknowledge the potential extraneous influence of our specific music selections,

as it is possible that the listeners preexisting preferences for certain music styles or artists could

influence likability scores to the extent that the more subtle effects of the mood induction are

obscured. Further studies could attempt to mitigate this problem by measuring along a more

continuous scale, expanding the music selection to include more diverse artists and styles, and/or

soliciting additional responses about the subjects familiarity with the musical selections to

determine if this correlates with likability, possibly using the subjects established musical tastes

as a covariate in the data analysis.


Finally, we must consider the effects of repeated exposure, both upon the persistence of

the initial mood induction, as well as upon liking ratings over time. Prior research suggests that

liking ratings may become more polarized with repeated exposure (Witvliet & Vrana, 2007), but

if this effect occurred in our study, it was not apparent in the final collated results.

Our study represents a major step forward in our understanding of the affective properties

of music, and of the ways in which our perceptions are altered depending upon how our mood

has been manipulated by external factors prior to exposure. We trust this data can have practical

applications in music therapy for developing treatments that will produce desired outcomes,

depending upon the emotional state of the client. Nonetheless, many avenues for additional

research have been suggested to further unravel the conundrum surrounding the appeal of sad-

sounding music and its fundamental relationship with human emotion.



Dalla Bella, S., Peretz, I., Rousseau, L., & Gosselin, N. (2001). A developmental study of the

affective value of tempo and mode in music. Cognition, 80(3), B1-B10.

Erber, R. (1991). Affective and semantic priming: Effects of mood on category accessibility and

inference. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 27(5), 480-498.

Hunter, P. G., Schellenberg, E. G., & Schimmack, U. (2008). Mixed affective responses to music

with conflicting cues. Cognition & Emotion, 22(2), 327-352.

Hunter, P. G., Schellenberg, E. G., & Schimmack, U. (2010). Feelings and perceptions of

happiness and sadness induced by music: Similarities, differences, and mixed emotions.

Psychology of Aesthetics, Creativity, and the Arts, 4(1), 47.

Husain, G., Thompson, W. F., & Schellenberg, E. G. (2002). Effects of musical tempo and mode

on arousal, mood, and spatial abilities. Music perception, 20(2), 151-171.

Miller, E. (2011). Bio-guided music therapy: A practitioner's guide to the clinical integration of

music and biofeedback. London: Jessica Kingsley.

Schellenberg, E. G., Peretz, I., & Vieillard, S. (2008). Liking for happy-and sad-sounding music:

Effects of exposure. Cognition & Emotion, 22(2), 218-237.

Witvliet, C. V., & Vrana, S. R. (2007). Play it again Sam: Repeated exposure to emotionally

evocative music polarises liking and smiling responses, and influences other affective

reports, facial EMG, and heart rate. Cognition and Emotion, 21(1), 3-25.

Appendix 1

Musical selections used as stimuli (approx. 30-second instrumental excerpts)

Tempo Mode Title Artist/Composer

Fast Major Lukey Great Big Sea
Fast Minor Billy Peddle Great Big Sea
Slow Major Miss Claire Remembers Enya
Slow Minor Exile Enya
Fast Major The Legend Spreads (Braveheart) James Horner
Slow Major Braveheart Main Title James Horner
Fast Minor There There Radiohead
Slow Minor Exit Music (for a Film) Radiohead
Fast Major Piano Concerto No. 2, First Movement Dmitri Shostakovich
Fast Minor Concerto for Piano and Trumpet No. 1, First Mov. Dmitri Shostakovich
Slow Major Protection Massive Attack
Slow Minor Weather Storm Massive Attack
Fast Major Friday Im In Love The Cure
Slow Major A Letter to Elise The Cure
Fast Minor La Noyee (Amelie) Yann Tiersen
Slow Minor Le Moulin (Amelie) Yann Tiersen
Fast Major Its Love Kings X
Fast Minor Moanjam Kings X
Slow Major Love of My Life Queen
Slow Minor White Queen (As It Began) Queen
Fast Major Brandenburg Concerto #2 J.S. Bach
Slow Major Air on G String J.S. Bach
Fast Minor Waltz #14 in E Minor Frdric Chopin
Slow Minor Opus 28 #6 Frdric Chopin
Fast Major Long Distance Runaround Yes
Fast Minor The Fish Yes
Slow Major Concerto for Flute and Harp in C W. Amadeus Mozart
Slow Minor Piano Concerto 23 in A (Adagio) W. Amadeus Mozart

Appendix 2

Stories used for mood induction

Story for happy emotional priming:

Sharon Clemens lived with her mother and 4 brothers in Doddville, Tennessee, a small

town in the Smoky Mountains. Sharon took care of most of the household chores and cooked

when her mother worked late. Mrs. Clemens had taken a job as a produce clerk when her

husband died. Sharon was 14 at the time.

A serious girl, Sharon often wondered what it would be like to live in a big city and to see

all the things she read about in back issues of magazines they let her mother bring home from

Doctor Simmon's office. Sharon would fancy herself as an illustrator of children's books filled

with beautiful landscapes and friendly animals.

Drawing was the only thing that distracted Sharon from her homework or domestic

chores. She liked to draw her mother and brothers at home in the evenings after the chores were

done. Sharon wouldn't hear of letting her mother buy her any art supplies so she drew with

pencils and pieces of charcoal she saved. Her dream was to buy an enormous set of colored

pencils someday, pencils with every imaginable color.

Mrs. Clemens knew her daughter had talent, but didn't think the renderings of herself and

her boys would ever sell. She also knew that if Sharon didn't get any formal training her talent

would never amount to much more than a hobby, one to be put aside when she had her own

babies to raise.

The thought of selling some of Sharon's sketches occurred again to her as she rode the

bus into Knoxville one day to visit her sister. Mrs. Clemens always brought along a few of

Sharon's drawings. They seemed to tell of the boys and their antics much better than she could.

Sharon was a senior in high school at the time and talking about working in the grocery store,

maybe saving money for community college. Mrs. Clemens hoped that she would still find time

to draw her and the boys.

A woman seated across from her on the bus seemed to be eyeing the drawings with

interest. Mrs. Clemens held them up for her to see. The other patrons on the bus began to take

notice and to chuckle at Andy dressing up the cat, or Gus and Joe playing the banjo and singing.

The woman introduced herself as Mrs. Henderson. She was an art dealer in Knoxville and

hoped to have a closer look at some of Sharon's work. Mrs. Clemens accompanied her back to

her store where Mrs. Henderson gave her $75 for the sketches, a large pad of drawing paper and

a box of colored pencils. She told her to have Sharon fill in the pad and bring it and the girl back

with her.

Sharon's work was exhibited at the Knoxville Blossom Festival that spring. As her

mother had hoped, the colored pencils opened up a whole new range of possibilities for Sharon

who spent much of her spare time away from the house drawing the mountains' colorful

landscapes, animals and birds.

Sharon's drawing of apple trees blossoming against a backdrop of mountains won the

poster design competition and was seen on advertisements all over town. Her drawings did not

go unnoticed by the local artists' community, one of whom was an artist in residence at the

University of Virginia.

Without telling Sharon, she spoke to the school of admissions about possible scholarships

for the girl. When Sharon was contacted by a Mr. Conrad who liberally praised her work and

asked her to come down for an interview, she was terribly nervous. How could she make it

through the interview? Her grades were not that good.

Mr. Conrad was able to make Sharon relax a little in the interview. She even laughed as

he showed her the industrious attempts of his own young son to draw the mountains. He

explained to Sharon that if she did get the scholarship, they would help her prepare for

academics with a special summer program.

Four weeks later, her letter of acceptance arrived from the University of Virginia a full

scholarship to study art. She was in.

Story for sad emotional priming:

Sharon Clemens was a bright, articulate sophomore, majoring in art at the University of

Michigan. She felt sorry for students who deliberated over their majors. Art was such an obvious

choice for her. From an early age, Sharon photographed, painted, drew. Almost nothing else

could keep her attention. History was boring, as were science and English. Her only desire was

to be able to explain the physical world with her artwork, to translate things that struck her into

paintings and drawings and photographs.

Sharon received a great deal of praise for her work in high school. Her water color

paintings of Tennessee mountain dwellers who lived near her home in Knoxville were Sharon's

favorite subjects and drew critical acclaim when exhibited at a local art gallery. She sold every

painting, donating the proceeds to a medical center whose purpose was to give aid to those

isolated and poverty stricken families. Sharon loved walking through the mountains and, in time,

learned all the steep and winding paths that led to the homes she visited.

When the time came for her to go to college, Sharon felt torn. It made her sad to think

how little she would see her family and her friends in the mountains over the next few years. But

she resolved to come back, to paint, photograph and maybe help them lead better lives.

Her first year of college was a great challenge, but she emerged as one of the promising

artists in her class. The second year of school Sharon moved out of the dorm into an apartment

and bought a big yellow labrador she named Sheba. As a substitute for her long walks in the

mountains, Sharon walked everywhere with Sheba: to and from her classes on North Campus, to

visit friends and to various parks in the city.

That January, Sharon was settling back into her apartment and trying to adjust to the

rigors of another semester. School, it seemed, both exhausted and invigorated her. Her friends

laughed at her seriousness and tried to get Sharon to go easier on hers. But Sharon wouldn't have

known how. This semester, however, things were different. She seemed to get cramped sitting

for long periods of time and when she tried to stretch out she felt pain. Sharon dismissed the idea

that anything was wrong with her, but in the spring she found she had trouble walking to

campus. Her knee and ankle joints were tender.

Friends insisted that she see a doctor. But Sharon feared in heart that there really was

something wrong with her, something terrible, and she refused to go. It was not until she was no

longer able to hold a pencil or a brush, or even push the shutter on her camera that she agreed.

The doctors confirmed her fears. Sharon had developed rheumatoid arthritis, a condition

normally found in much older patients. The painful inflammation of her joints would leave her

an invalid. None of the doctors told her this, but Sharon had read all the literature she could find

on the disease and learned that this rare condition was progressive. Sharon realized that soon, it

would be virtually impossible to work for more than a few moments with her hands, to walk

more than a short distance, in essence to do anything she had built her life around.

Sharon believed that her talent was an inexplicable gift. But she had taken for granted

that she would always have the use of her body. Didn't she have a right to one that worked? Now

she would have to learn to live in continual pain. Even worse than the physical pain was the

realization that she could no longer use her gift, the one thing that had made her special, made

her important to the rest of the world. She would never be able to run again with Sheba or paint

her friends in the mountains.

Stories used with permission from Dr. Ralph Erber, DePaul University. (1991)