Is classical music sweeter than jazz? Crossmodal influences of background music and taste/flavour on healthy and indulgent food preferences
Motoki K., Takahashi N., Velasco C., Spence C.
Store atmospheres are inherently multisensory and constitute an important driver of consumer behaviour. The research suggests that background music (as one element of the multisensory atmosphere) can influence consumer preference and choice. However, the findings have been inconsistent as far as how background music influences people's preferences for healthy vs. indulgent foods is concerned. By considering different music genres, food types, and tastes/flavours, we aimed to disentangle the mixed results that have been reported previously. Across two experiments (including one pre-registered replication), the participants rated their preferences for each of several options (healthy savoury, indulgent savoury, healthy sweet, indulgent sweet) while listening to one of four music genres (Jazz, Classical, Rock/Metal, and Hip-hop). The results of the two experiments consistently demonstrated that the effects of background music on food preferences were dependent on the interaction between music genre, food type (healthy vs. indulgent), and taste/flavour (sweet vs. savoury). Crucially, listening to Jazz and Classical music increased people's preferences for healthy savoury foods (e.g., vegetable sandwich) as compared with Rock/Metal music. Listening to Rock/Metal, Hip-hop, and Jazz music increased people's preferences for indulgent savoury foods (e.g., a beef sandwich) as compared with Classical music. Additionally, listening to Classical music increased people's preferences for both healthier (e.g., low-fat milk) and indulgent (e.g., milk chocolate) sweet foods as compared with the other musical genres. The mediating role of emotions was also documented in these experiments. Specifically, positive valence mediated the relationship between music genre and sweet as well as healthier savoury foods, while the feeling of arousal mediated the relationship between music genre and indulgent savoury foods. These findings suggest that auditory atmospherics may influence consumers’ food preferences. Practical implications for store managers concerning when to select and use specific types of background music are made.