Neuroscientists measured the physiological responses of 75 volunteers while they watched performances in 8 countries to predict which songs would do well in the popular vote
May 14, 2022
Analysing people’s physiological responses to eight performances, researchers say Sweden will be one of the most popular countries in tonight’s Eurovision Song Contest public vote.
Daniel Richardson UCL and his colleagues had 75 people with an average age of 30 watch this year’s Eurovision finalists’ entries from eight countries: Norway, Germany, Spain, Poland, Italy, Australia, Sweden and France.
They monitored participants’ heart rate and skin conductance levels while watching the performance. Then use it to predict how those countries will fare in tonight’s public vote.
The researchers chose these countries because four of them are certain to make it to the finals under Eurovision rules, while Sweden and Australia have a good track record in reaching the finals, while bookmakers lean towards Poland and Norway.
Ukraine was not included because it was the most popular this year. “If we predict Ukraine will win, no one will be impressed,” Richardson said.
These predictions were based on the team’s belief that when a group of people watched the same show, the more similar their heart rate and skin conductance levels were, the more engaging the show had to be.
Richardson and his team previously found that, Crowd heartbeats can be synchronized When people watch a live musical together. Skin conductance reflects how much a person sweats, which is stimulated by adrenaline.
“Broadly speaking, these measures are wake-up measures,” Richardson said. “But if you just look at whether it’s up or down, you can’t really tell if it’s good or bad.”
The different patterns of physiological responses during a given performance suggest the behavior is not very appealing, he said.
“When something is really fascinating, everyone’s brains are processing the same stimuli, so you have physiological synchronization,” he said. “And we all get bored in different ways – someone might stare at the window and someone kicks their feet, so they have different mental states. Or at least that’s our working hypothesis.”
The researchers found that their predictions based on skin conductance levels did not exactly match those based on heart rate. Richardson speculates that heart rate similarity may tell us how emotionally engaged the performance is, while skin conductance may be more indicative of how engaged they are with the performance narrative—though he stresses that this remains speculative.
“They’re coupled, but only loosely — in fact we don’t quite know what they’re telling us yet,” Richardson said. To make their overall predictions, the researchers simply averaged the two types of predictions.
Of the countries studied in the study, the team expects Sweden to top the public vote, followed by Australia and Italy. The researchers predict that Norway will have the lowest score.
The team plans to use this year’s Eurovision results to help improve the way such data is analysed and to improve forecasts for next year.
“I really like this study,” says Sarah Garfunkel at University College London. “I think the authors were really brave to publish their predictions like this.”
“I think studies like this can highlight the biology of empathy and show the true nature of human nature,” she said. “We are a social species.”
Garfinkel wouldn’t say whether the team’s predictions were correct, but she thinks there’s value in their approach. “I’m pretty confident they’re on the right track,” she said.
refer to: OSF Registry, DOI: 10.17605/OSF.IO/MYQKH
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