New Study Links Loud Music to Unhealthy Food Choices

New Study Links Loud Music to Unhealthy Food Choices

By Trudi Purdy, wlr team

Key Takeaways

  • Background music can affect your food choices in restaurants
  • Low volume = healthy choices
  • High volume = unhealthy choices

A new study by Dr Dipayan Biswas, Kaisa Lund and professor Courtney Szocs has found a link between music volume and food choices in restaurants and supermarkets.

The Study

The team, using a pilot study, two field experiments and five lab studies, found that where the volume of the background music was high, more diners ordered something unhealthy compared to those who dined at a quieter time.

In Detail

Restaurants and supermarkets use every tool at their disposal to help you part with your cash.

Displays, lighting, scent and decor are all part of the experience when you visit, even if you don’t realise it – it’s all part of the ambience.

While previous studies have looked at some of these aspects of ambience, Biswas et al are the first to look at how music volume dictates healthy vs. non-healthy food choices.

Music can be the ultimate mood setter. A fast beat gets us excited; a slower beat helps us relax. And, according to the finding of this study, it can make a difference to what we order in restaurants.

During one of the field studies at a cafe in Stockholm, various types of music were played in a loop at different volumes – at 55Db and 70Db.

The menu items were coded as healthy, non-healthy and neutral (items like tea and coffee).

The experiment was conducted for several hours over multiple days.

When diners were exposed to music at 70Db, 20% more ordered something non-healthy.

55Db 70Db
295 items sold 254 items sold
32% healthy 25% healthy
42% non-healthy 52% non-healthy
26% neutral 23% neutral

In Conclusion

Music is such an emotive thing that it’s not surprising difference in volume can affect the choices we make.

After all, playing something cheerful and loud can lift our spirits while playing something sombre can bring us back down to earth,

But if, as this study suggest, loud music can affect your food choices then what can you do to make sure you still go for the healthy option when you’re eating out?

It’s simple.

If you want to ensure you go for healthier choices, avoid places that play the music so loud you have to shout at your dining companions to have a conversation.

We’ve all been to places like this, where the music is loud and upbeat and is only interrupted for the waiters to sing happy birthday to the big group of kids over there.

Stick to places where the background music is what it suggests – in the background!

Of course, you could always dine at home and make something special yourself using some of the delicious, calorie counted recipes from the wlr recipe database. Why not invite some friends round and make it really special, but without breaking the calorie bank?

That way, you get to choose the music and the volume!

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