Music played at high volume increases preference for unhealthy foods, while the same music at low volume promotes healthier choices, according to this new Swedish-American work.
The framework in which purchase choices are made, including background music, has been studied for a long time. It is even more so with the development of digital purchases insofar as it is an element of differentiation for physical points of sale. Music in a store is thus supposed to prolong the consumer’s dwell time, and potentially increase their purchases. But what is new is that the music, or rather the volume at which the music is played, is enough to guide the healthy or unhealthy nature of popular foods.
Listening to loud music makes you bad choices
To reach this conclusion, the researchers conducted their investigations in two different places: a supermarket and a cafe that serves food. In each of the establishments, different genres of music were played for an entire day at low volume (55 decibels), then for another day later in the week at high volume (70 decibels). After taking inventory of purchases, the researchers found that compared to days without music, the day with low music volume increased the sale of healthy foods, while the day with high music volume increased. resulted in an increase in the sale of unhealthy foods.
No matter the style of music, it’s the volume that matters
In another experiment conducted by the same team at the lab, investigators examined students’ preferences based on exposure to two different music volume levels. Here too, when the music was going strong, the participants indicated a preference for the unbalanced options, and whether it was heavy metal, classical or instrumental music.
This observation can be put into perspective with the effects of stress, known to favor preferences towards energy-dense foodstuffs, and the favorable effect of relaxation on food choices.
Biswas D. et al., Sounds like a healthy retail atmospheric strategy: Effects of ambient music and background noise on food sales. J Ac Market Science, 2018.
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