Streaming chill vibes? Spotify data says the season is the reason

Newswise — ITHACA, N.Y. – Our music choices are influenced by season and time of day, and differ by gender, age, and geography, according to a new study from Cornell University.

The study, published in Nature Human Behavior, offers insights into the temporal dynamics of human emotion.

“Across the social sciences there's a lot of interest in the study of emotion and emotional regulation and preferences,” said senior author Michael Macy, professor of sociology and information science. “Suddenly we have these data on what music people are choosing to listen to all over the world and it's a remarkable opportunity to advance our understanding, empirically, of people's emotional management based on how they use music.”

Macy and first author Minsu Park, an information science graduate student, analyzed 765 million online music plays streamed from Spotify in 2016 by 1 million people from 51 countries. They used Spotify tools rating the music intensity from “highly relaxing,” such as acoustic or instrumental music, to “highly energetic,” such as loud music with a strong beat.

Nearly half of internet users between ages 16 and 64 stream music during the day. The study found that people in western cultures tend to play more arousing music, while those in Asia play more relaxing music. While globally more women listen to music with lower intensity, particularly in the evening, the researchers found a hemispheric difference. In the Southern Hemisphere, women chose music with higher intensity than men; in the Northern Hemisphere, the pattern was the opposite.

This was the first study to look at differences in music choices in the Northern and Southern Hemispheres. Researchers found that relaxing music is preferred during cold seasons, while highly arousing music is preferred during warmer seasons. Absolute day length, the interval between sunrise and sunset, was the best predictor of musical intensity. Since longer days also mean warmer temperatures, the researchers speculate the seasonal variations in musical intensity may be due to temperature as well as daylight.

A person’s chronotype – their circadian rhythm or sleep schedule – influences music choice as well. “Night owls” stream music of lower intensity, while “evening people” listen to music with the highest intensity scores.

The observational study offers no causal explanation for the findings, but gives a “more complete picture of the emotional rhythms in human behavior,” write the researchers.

For more information, see this Cornell Chronicle story.

Cornell University has dedicated television and audio studios available for media interviews supporting full HD, ISDN and web-based platforms.




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