How do consumers see a product when they hear music?

Oct 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: Why do discounts backfire when you make consumers wait?

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

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

How do mood and emotional arousal affect consumer choices?

Mar 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 s ...

Why do discounts backfire when you make consumers wait?

Oct 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.

Why do we enjoy listening to sad music?

Jul 11, 2013

Sad music might actually evoke positive emotions reveals a new study by Japanese researchers published in the open-access journal Frontiers in Psychology. The findings help to explain why people enjoy listening to sad mu ...

Recommended for you

Local education politics 'far from dead'

17 hours ago

Teach for America, known for recruiting teachers, is also setting its sights on capturing school board seats across the nation. Surprisingly, however, political candidates from the program aren't just pushing ...

First grade reading suffers in segregated schools

17 hours ago

A groundbreaking study from the Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute (FPG) has found that African-American students in first grade experience smaller gains in reading when they attend segregated schools—but the ...

Why aren't consumers buying remanufactured products?

19 hours ago

Firms looking to increase market share of remanufactured consumer products will have to overcome a big barrier to do so, according to a recent study from the Penn State Smeal College of Business. Findings from faculty members ...

Expecting to teach enhances learning, recall

19 hours ago

People learn better and recall more when given the impression that they will soon have to teach newly acquired material to someone else, suggests new research from Washington University in St. Louis.

Understanding the economics of human trafficking

Jul 28, 2014

Although Europe is one of the strictest regions in the world when it comes to guaranteeing the respect of human rights, the number of people trafficked to or within the EU still amounts to several hundred ...

User comments : 0