How Consumers Process Music

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The Association Response

In a famous 1999 study, researchers found that when German music was played in a wine shop, the sales of German wine increased. When the music switched to French classics, shoppers put more French bottles in their baskets. Yet, when surveyed by researchers, shoppers were unaware of the effect the music had on their purchases. This phenomenon happens when our temporal lobe associates a sound with the familiar, causing us to respond in line with our past experiences.

The Pleasure Response

When music plays, our brain automatically shifts into game mode. As the music changes in terms of timbre, pitch or key, our prefrontal cortex, the area responsible for anticipation and planning, tries to guess what’s next based on preconceived patterns. When it guesses correctly, a sense of pleasure overtakes it; when it doesn’t, it’s aroused by the excitement of the unexpected. As our brain is continually engaged, it distracts from the displeasure of waiting for a table in a crowded restaurant, yet heightens the hedonistic pleasure of dining once we’re seated and enjoying our food.

The Physical Response

When music enters the brain through the cerebellum, it triggers our coordination and motor skills, causing us to subconsciously match what we do to what we hear. It’s why relaxing, slow-tempo music leads diners to linger after dinner over additional glasses of wine, increasing their drink bill by 51%, and why up-tempo playlists encourage people to eat quicker, helping wait staff turn tables faster during busy times.

How do Your Consumers Process Music?

Your guests don't all process music in the same way. To discover how they might be experiencing your background music, reach out for a quick call. Not finished learning? For more on the neuroscience behind background music, download our guidebook.

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