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Your playlist mirrors your mood, confirms IIIT-Hyderabad study

KV Kurmanath Hyderabad | Updated on October 08, 2020

IIIT-H researchers throw light on the link between people listening to sad songs and their mood. It can leave enough hints at people on the verge of getting into depression.

That music heals and enthrals is not news. A number of studies across the world have studied the impact of music on human beings and animals. Here’s a new study by researchers at the International Institute of Information Technology (IIIT-Hyderabad) that throws light on the link between people listening to sad songs and their mood. It can leave enough hints at people on the verge of getting into depression.

“Listening to music is not a passive activity but one that holds a mirror to the self,” Vinoo Alluri of the Cognitive Science department at IIIT-H, says.

She, along with her students Aayush Surana and Yash Goyal, has tried to identify music listeners with depressive tendencies from their (music) listening habits.

The study, titled ‘Tag2risk: Harnessing Social Music tags for characterising depression risk, cover over 500 individuals’ music-listening histories from music streaming platforms.

“The inability to stop repeatedly listening to (sad) music, using it as a tool for avoidance and using music as a coping mechanism means, one could wallow in an unhappy state too,” she was quoted as saying in an institute’s blog.

They were also found listening to music belonging to subgenres such as neo-psychedelic pop and rock, and Indie music which are tagged with ‘Sadness’ and ‘Tenderness’.

“While it can be cathartic sometimes, repeatedly being in such states may be an indicator of potential underlying mental illness and this is reflected in their choice and usage of music,” Vinoo Alluri points out.

She feels that music listening habits can be changed. But, in order to do that, they need to be identified first by uncovering their listening habits.

It is possible to break the pattern of “ruminative and repetitive music usage”, which will lead to a more positive outcome.

The researchers also used the Kessler’s Psychological Distress Scale (K-10), which is a measurement of psychological distress. They also employed the Healthy-Unhealthy Music Scale (HUMS), a tool that measures music engagement as an indicator of mental well being.

“We chose HUMS and the personality questionnaires because we wanted to see if the distress in individuals was a temporary state or a general tendency,” she says.

Those at the risk of depression were found predominantly listening to music tagged with emotions such as sadness.

Published on October 08, 2020

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