Investigating The Link Between Emotions and Audio Listening Experiences

Shareeza Hussain
Jan 12, 2018 · 9 min read
Analysis — We working on the Affinity Diagram

Overview of the Project

For my Emphatic Research Framework class, I was placed into a group with five other members to work on a project. The topic for the project we had to work on was ‘Audio Experiences’. To make our topic specific, we worked collaboratively together to formalize a good research question. Our group was investigating the link between emotions and the audio listening experience. The aim of this research was to better understand people’s current behaviors, emotions and experiences when listening to audio entertainment. To achieve our goal we carried out a diary study experiment. This mean, for three consecutive days six people submitted at least three entries per day. Each entry submitted was related to the audio they listened to.

After receiving the requested data from the participants, my group and I re-grouped to carry out a brainstorming session in order to understand the data that were presented to us. The results indicated that majority of the times the participant’s emotional state changed due to the audio they were listening to. The changes vary from positive to negative or vice versa.

In addition to that, the results helped us to pinpoint the ways people regulate their mood with the help of audio whether for distraction, leisure, information or to sustain their mood and alter their mood.

Response — One of the audio the participant listened to


Company X provides a music streaming service to its customer. In recent years, they’ve found the space is more crowed and harder to compete in. Hence, myself and five other researchers were tasked to understand people’s current behavior, emotions and experiences when listening to audio entertainment. Through our research Company X can better able to identify gap with their current service or how to improve the customer experience.

Research Question

What is the link between emotions and the audio listening experience?

Overview of the Process

This project was divided into Four phases:

· Phase One — Plan

· Phase Two — Run Study

· Phase Three — Analysis

. Phase Four — Report

Phase One — Plan

For this phase my group did the following:-

(1) Write Research Question

The first thing we do is to try to comprehend the scenario presented to us. By doing this we were able to figure out the project’s goal. To achieve the identified goal, we ponder on possible research questions that are relevant to the study. However, at the end we only selected one research question which was further refined to cover all aspects of the research.

(2) Setting up the Diary study

For this research, we collected data by running a Diary Study. This involved having participants self-reporting activities the time it occurs. The participants were expected to submit at least three diary entries per day for three days straight. Before we run the diary study we had to ensure certain things are in place. See below the things we did when setting up our diary study:

(1) Identify our participants — we gathered six participants. The reason is since we were group of six members we wanted each member to monitor a participant. Here, we collected each participant’s contact details. Also during this stage, we briefed each of the participant about the project and what we wanted them to do.

(2) Formulate a list of questions that each diary entry should cover - for this research, we came up with three questions; two close-ended questions and one open-ended question. We also formulated a request where we asked the participants to submit an image. Submitting an image was optional. See the appendix section to view the questions.

(3) Setting up the diary of study — before proceeding with this, my team created an email account for our group. Under this account, we created a form via Google Form for collecting the responses. The questions created are attached to this form. The advantage of using google form is that it can be accessed by multiple people at once. Because more than one participant is accessing this form, we asked the participants to provide their names for every entry they made in order to easily map participant to entries.

(4) Prepare an instruction statement for the participant. This is a brief overview about what is expected from the participant, how many entries per day should be made and when they need to submit a diary entry. On this statement, there are details about when the study started and ended. The group’s email was also stated on the form just in case the participant wanted to contact us regarding any question or clarification.

(3) Review the Plan

The team and the instructor rechecked the plan to ensure everything was correct and clear. We also did pre-runs where myself and another teammate sent the link of the form to our private emails. We inputted test entries and ensured that we was able to view them.

Phase two — Running the Diary Study

Before we begin to get the diary study up and running, we contacted each participant to remind them about the study and tell them about the tool we were using for them to be comfortable using the tool. Also, we let them know that they can contact us if needed to.

We then proceeded with running the diary study. It started on December 7th, 2017 and ended on December 9th, 2017. We emailed the participants the link to the form that they had to complete every time they submit an entry. In this email, we also informed them that they should submit a diary entry anytime they listen to an audio.

Every day we would resend the email to the participants as a reminder for them to be aware that they needed to make diary entries. Since each member of my team was allocated a participant, throughout the study, I would regularly monitor the entries coming from the participant I was managing and ensure that the participant submitted the requested entries per day and the data submitted was appropriate. Luckily, my participant did her job well so I did not encounter any issue where the participant submitted incorrect data or not submitting anything at all.

I also reviewed the other participant’s entries where I looked for comparisons, similarities, how data varies from day to day and certain patterns.

Phase Three — Analysis

Few days later after the study finished, our group held a meeting where we reviewed the responses. The first thing we did was to check for irrelevant data.

To help us make sense of the results, we used affinity diagram. We found the affinity diagram as the ideal tool because we wanted to express ideas and organized the overwhelming responses we received.

Affinity Diagram Process

We wrote down each participant’s responses on sticky notes. We tried to summarize the longer responses to a concise one but in no way we changed up what they were implying. Also, to help differentiate each participant’s responses on each sticky note we used labels like P1, P2, P3, P4, P5 and P6.

We then placed the sticky notes on to a cardboard. To make the exercise a little more fun, we took turn, each member reading out what was written on a sticky note. As we found similarities between responses, we started to group them together. In addition to related responses, we even found responses that were identical. Those we bundled together as one. Eventually, all this helped us to see connections between each point and develop themes.

Affinity Diagram
Affinity Diagram

After some days, I revisited back the affinity diagram and used an online tool, Real Time Board to create the affinity in order to make it look clearer and neater. For the updated Affinity Diagram, I color coded the sticky notes to represent the participants.

Affinity Diagram

Phase Four — Report

This is where I wrote about the research’s findings, how I went about gathering data for the research and the purpose for doing this research. I chose to present this report as a blog post using the online website,


We were capturing data that will show the link between emotion and audio listening experiences. Eventually, our finding led us to see a galore of emotional factors that influence people audio listening experiences. Also, it showed how audio listening can impact people’s moods. Hence, suitable themes were drafted to represent the responses:

(1) Distraction

It was found that many times participants were doing an activity, they would listen to audio to get their minds off the things they currently were doing whether was to pass time, feeling bored in class, driving etc.

(2) Alter Mood

When the participants were not feeling properly or feeling less inspired, they would listen to audio to change their current emotions.

(3) Sustain Mood

Findings also indicated that there were people who liked their current moods. Hence, they listened to things that helped to maintain their mood. This happened in times when they were working, in a festive mood etc.

(4) Information

There were cases when participants listened to audio to gain knowledge and felt good about this.

(5) Leisure

Many responses depicted that when a participant was partaking in some relaxing activity, they listened to audio. Listening to audio helped them to feel relaxed, be at peace etc.

(6) No Change

There are times when the participants were listening to an audio but their feelings remained the same like before.

(7) Mixed Mood

Results showed that listening to an audio can cause people to experience mixed emotional feelings. They could feel ‘cheerful’ before but after listening to the music they still felt ‘cheerful’ but it also contributed in making them feel ‘excited’ and ‘relaxed’.

(8) Positive Mood

Many of the participants’ results stipulated that they listened to audio to enhance the ways they were feeling before. For example, like contributed in changing a participant’s feeling from ‘lazy’ to ‘excited’.

(9) Negative Mood

Even though not a lot of responses demonstrate this, there were cases when the participants were feeling better until when they heard an audio. For example, the participant was feeling focused then ended up feeling distracted.


Doing this project allowed me to gain exposure to many new things like setting up and run the diary study. Since I wanted to capture people’s experiences when interacting with something (in this case audio), I learnt that the diary study was a great tool to use. Since persons were recording an actual instance of the scenario when it occurs this was an opportunity to collect real time data. If I was to observe the participants, that would be time consuming. Plus I would be unable to look over every time the participant listened to an audio. For that reason I would have to stay with the participant all the time. This could invade their privacy etc.

During the analysis phase, I realized we should have a question where we asked the participant what kind of audio they were listening to. If I was to re-run the study, I would definitely include this as a prompt question.


A sample of the Prompt Questions

Thank you for reading :)

Written by Shareeza Hussain — UX Student student at Humber College / Software Developer

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