Listening with Your Mood

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The music you choose to listen to may depend upon what mood you are in. In the past, music held more specific functions, related to rituals or sacred occasions. Even a community coming together at a dance signaled particular genres of music shared collectively, not individual emotional experiences. Increasingly, however, we hear people talking about what music they like in terms of what context they wish to hear it. One might like to hear a particular song or kind of music while one is driving, another while doing things around the house, still another at night, or when one is feeling a certain emotion. Sad songs are notorious for fitting a need in listeners who interpret the lyrics and music as a kind of empathy and understanding mirroring their own experiences. This all means that you’re likely to pick a song to listen to according to your mood. Researchers in developmental psychology have used this fact as a tool to analyze the emotional states of teenagers, especially, who tend to experience heightened emotions, by looking at their song choices. Music streaming services use this to their advantage by mapping listeners’ preferences and tailoring personal playlists. They also make playlists based on moods, or desired moods, such as motivational, meditational, active, calm but cheery “morning music,” and so on. This kind of research data not only helps people find the song they are in the mood for, but also strongly suggests that mood management might be possible, so that music could be prescribed to lift sad or depressive states into more positive ones.