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How Music Convinces People to Buy Products

Update Date: Oct 15, 2013 05:10 PM EDT

People are more likely to buy products when pleasant sounds draw them to the items, a new study reveals.

"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," lead researchers Hao Shen of the Chinese University of Hong Kong and Jaideep Sengupta of Hong Kong University of Science and Technology wrote in the study. "Will this announcement, which is quite irrelevant to the relative merits of the two packets of cookies, influence your decision?"

Researchers said that 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. Shen and Sengupta explain that people like things they find easier to process.

In one experiment, participants were asked to form an impression of pictures of two hotel rooms on a computer screen. One picture was on the right of the screen and the other was on the left. Participants looked at the pictures while listening to a news bulletin from a speaker on either side.

The findings revealed that participants found it easier to process the picture located in the direction of the speaker. Participants also reported greater preference for that room.

Another experiment revealed that participants were more likely to choose soft drinks from a vending machine that broadcasts a local news bulletin.

However, the findings revealed an opposite effect with unpleasant sounds. While people first turn their attention to the unpleasant noise, avoidance kicks in and they voluntarily turn their attention away from the unpleasant signal.

In another experiment, participants looked at pictures of two restaurants while listening to either annoying or pleasant music that came from either side. The sounds were played for either a very short time (20 seconds) or a relatively long period (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 music that was preferred," researchers concluded.

The findings will be published in the Journal of Consumer Research

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