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Spotify data shows how music preferences change with latitude



  Spotify data shows how music preferences change with latitude.

In Anchorage, Alaska, the sun rises shortly after 10 o'clock in the gloomy mid-winter, hovers near the horizon for a few hours, and drops off shortly before 4 o'clock. All in all, only five hours and 28 minutes of daylight , Around the winter solstice (just in time for Christmas), Spotify's listeners in the northernmost latitudes of the world choose the intensity of their music choices and opt for a quieter and more relaxing music.

No, that's not a relaxed moment Christmas playlists: The opposite happens in the southern hemisphere: the intensity is felt immediately after the summer solstice in December. An article in Nature Human Behavior this week drew on the audiences of nearly a million Spotify listeners around the world, describing the daily and seasonal fluctuations in listening. The researchers suggest that the results point to a universal human habit that seems likely to be familiar: choose your music to bring it together and change your mood.

Morning Music vs. Midday Music

Cornell's PhD student Minsu Park and her colleagues were interested in how mass trends in music selection can illustrate the rhythms of the role of music in people's emotional lives. When she finally interned at Spotify, Park took the opportunity to work with Spotify colleagues and her adviser to board the treasure chest of information now available on people's music choices.

Although Spotify does so, it recommended music to the listeners and reported that in 2016 – the year the study was conducted – more than 80 percent of the titles were users' personal choices. The researchers also limited themselves to tracks that had gone all the way through, arguing that users would skip tracks they did not like or were not in the right mood (presumably they had decided that Spotify's restrictions on free accounts not the case) was a big problem to throw out their results significantly.

The researchers took data from audiences in 51 countries and made sure that their samples matched the demographics of each country, but they randomly selected the users. With Spotify's music data, they traced a variable they called musical intensity. It ranges from highly relaxing (acoustic, instrumental, ambient and flat or low tempo) to high-energy (strong beat, danceable, louder and more resilient).

These intensity preferences followed the daily rhythm more or less accurately than you might expect: lower intensity songs in the mornings that rise to normal working hours, then stay steady before breaking off in the evenings, with the weekends looking a little different. These results were in good agreement with an earlier study that tracked the emotions in the language of Twitter users, but they differed in one point: the language showed an afternoon dip, but there was no such break in music selection. The authors claim that people may choose music that buys them.

The data also showed some cultural differences – on average, more energetic music in Latin America, more relaxing music in Asia – and a gender difference that depends on the hemisphere : Women listen to less intense music in the northern He misphere and more intense in the southern hemisphere.

Seasonal Intensity

The annual variation, however, is that things really get intriguing, suggesting that the music selection takes into account the length of the day. Peak intensity corresponded to the summer solstice in each hemisphere, and these variations were extreme in extreme latitudes. Near the equator, intensity changes were much flatter throughout the year, while major changes in musical preferences were made in northern and southern locations (which had larger variations in day lengths). The length of the day was better for the musical intensity than for a number of other options.

This may seem like a dazzling example of how people react to factors such as temperature or sunlight, but it is possible that there is a huge dose of culture there. also. In a culture that has a long and pronounced fall season, there will be innumerable associations about what the event is – taste, clothing, and feelings – which may influence people's musical choices. Even during the summer holidays danceable music makes sense. These cultural factors are obviously also influenced by biological and environmental factors, but it's all tied up in a knot that's hard to unravel.

Of course, the work brings with it reservations. First, researchers used IP addresses and user profiles to classify users based on their demographics and geographic regions. Users can lie or use VPNs, so the data may be out of focus. And all the results are purely descriptive – they can not tell us anything about the reasons for the patterns, such as whether people really use music to intentionally influence the mood. Intuition can try to fill in the gaps, but to validate these intuitions different types of research – such as laboratory tests – would be required.

Large data sets like these also contain a lot of noise that can be confused with patterns, especially when weird or confusing results are discarded and not reported. And, of course, Spotify users are a definite (and relatively wealthy) demographic – not necessarily an accurate model of all human experience.

Nature Human Behavior 2018. DOI: 10.1038 / s41562-018-0508-z (About DOIs).


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