How do consumers see a product when they hear music?

October 15, 2013

Shoppers are more likely to buy a product from a different location when a pleasant sound coming from a particular direction draws attention to the item, according to a new study in the Journal of Consumer Research.

"Suppose that you are standing in a supermarket aisle, choosing between two packets of cookies, one placed nearer your right side and the other nearer your left. While you are deciding, you hear an in-store announcement from your left, about store closing hours," write authors Hao Shen (Chinese University of Hong Kong) and Jaideep Sengupta (Hong Kong University of Science and Technology). "Will this announcement, which is quite irrelevant to the relative merits of the two packets of cookies, influence your decision?"

In the example above, most consumers would choose the cookies on the left because consumers find it easier to visually process a product when it is presented in the same spatial direction as the auditory signal, and people tend to like things they find easy to process.

In one lab study, consumers were asked to form an impression of pictures of two hotel rooms on a computer screen, one of which was at the right of the screen and the other at the left, while listening to a news bulletin from a speaker placed on either side. Consumers found it easier to process the picture of hotel room located in the direction of the news and also indicated a greater preference for that room. In another study, consumers were more likely to choose soft drinks from a vending machine that broadcast a local news bulletin.

But things get a little more complicated if the signal is one we wish to avoid, like an unpleasant noise. In that case, people first turn their attention to the unpleasant noise in order to decipher the signal. Then avoidance kicks in as they voluntarily turn their attention away from the unpleasant signal.

In another set of studies, examined pictures of two restaurants while listening to either annoying or pleasant music that came from their left or right side. The music was played for either a very short time (20 seconds) or a relatively long one (1.5 minutes). "The predicted impairment effect was observed when the unpleasant music was played for a longer time—now, it was the picture in the direction away from the that was preferred," the authors conclude.

Explore further: How do mood and emotional arousal affect consumer choices?

More information: Hao Shen and Jaideep Sengupta. "The Crossmodal Effect of Attention on Preferences: Facilitation versus Impairment." Journal of Consumer Research: February 2014.

Related Stories

How do mood and emotional arousal affect consumer choices?

March 15, 2012

When they're in a positive mood, people tend to choose products that match their mood and their level of emotional arousal, according to a new study in the Journal of Consumer Research. But crabby, low-energy people will ...

Why do discounts backfire when you make consumers wait?

October 15, 2013

Consumers like to reap the benefits of discounts immediately (not later), according to a new study in the Journal of Consumer Research. Consumers enjoy discounted products much less if they have to wait for them.

Recommended for you

Mexican site yields new details of sacrifice of Spaniards

October 9, 2015

Excavations at the site of one of the Spanish conquistadors' worst defeats in Mexico are yielding new evidence about what happened when the two cultures clashed—and a native people, at least temporarily, was in control.

Ancient genome from Africa sequenced for the first time

October 8, 2015

The first ancient human genome from Africa to be sequenced has revealed that a wave of migration back into Africa from Western Eurasia around 3,000 years ago was up to twice as significant as previously thought, and affected ...

Rare braincase provides insight into dinosaur brain

October 8, 2015

Experts have described one of the most complete sauropod dinosaur braincases ever found in Europe. The find could help scientists uncover some of the mysteries of how dinosaur brains operated, including their intellectual ...

How much for that Nobel prize in the window?

October 3, 2015

No need to make peace in the Middle East, resolve one of science's great mysteries or pen a masterpiece: the easiest way to get yourself a Nobel prize may be to buy one.


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.