The Unexpected Link Between Music And Food Consumption

When your stomach starts to rumble, have you ever considered how your surrounding environment might impact what food item you reach for? Science shows us that it can, particularly when it comes to sounds. While you might pay little to no attention to the music playing in the background of a restaurant while dining out, the tempo and genre of that tune could unconsciously be influencing your order (via Woman's World).

Researchers from a 2021 study published in Appetite examined the food choices of over 110 participants from China and over 100 people from Denmark after they had been exposed to one of two playlists. The soundtracks had been curated based on previous research. One was considered to be a "healthy" soundtrack, composed of a slow, high-pitched piano jazz tune (per Woman's World). The "unhealthy" soundtrack consisted of a low, fast guitar melody. In both groups, listening to the healthy soundtrack led participants to make healthier food selections, such as fruits and veggies, rather than donuts or pizza when presented with virtual images of different food items.

The effects of tempo and song pleasantness

It turns out that the enjoyableness of a song could even potentially sway our taste preferences, according to a two-part 2018 study. 60 individuals were given two of the exact same cookies to eat. The only difference was that one cookie was to be eaten while listening to pleasant background music, and the other was to be eaten while unpleasant background music was played. When exposed to pleasant music, participants ranked that cookie as better tasting than the cookie accompanied by unpleasant music.

Music may also play a role in the speed at which we eat. Researchers from a 2020 study published in Appetite found that tempo influenced how quickly participants ate. The study team timed how long it took over 200 volunteers from Denmark to eat five pieces of chocolate while listening to music of varying tempos, as well as no music at all (via Daily Mail). When listening to music with a faster tempo, eating speed was timed at an average of 34 seconds. When listening to music with a slower tempo, eating time subsequently slowed to 38 seconds. Furthermore, listening to compositions with musical notes that connected seamlessly into one another resulted in longer chew times than when participants listened to songs with distinctly separate notes.

How music may influence our grocery list

Keep in mind, music doesn't only affect us while we're eating. It can also impact what food items we buy too. A 2019 analysis published in the Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science found that music played at a low volume put consumers into a relaxed state, which led them to make healthier food purchases. Music played at a high volume, however, had the opposite effect.

Lastly, music that creates mental associations with certain products may also influence food buying behaviors. A 1999 study published in the Journal of Applied Psychology found that on days when in-store French music was played near a French wine display, it led to an increase in sales. The same results proved true for German wine sales on days when German music was played in the store.

So the next time you're out enjoying a meal or shopping at the supermarket, the surrounding music is something you may want to takeĀ noteĀ of, so to speak.