Loud Music Can Make You Eat More
New research has shown that loud background music in a restaurant can influence the way you order food, nudging you to choose higher calorie or unhealthy items. Surprisingly, the kind of music – rock, classical or R&B – doesn’t make a difference. It’s the volume that seems to lead us to indulge ourselves, consuming foods we might not order if the background music were low.
Researchers from the University of South Florida in Tampa found we tend to be more relaxed, more mindful and more likely to choose foods wisely when the volume is at lower levels. Students participating in a lab experiment were asked to choose between fruit salad or chocolate cake. When the background music was high 56 percent chose fruit salad, but when the volume was low, 86 percent went for the fruit salad. Earlier research has shown that our food choices are also influenced by restaurant lighting – when it is low, customers tend to indulge in less healthy foods but choose healthier ones when lighting is high.
My take? These are interesting findings and testify to the fact that ambiance, including music and illumination, can have a powerful effect on mind and body. When you listen to slow, relaxing music, your heart naturally beats more slowly, breathing deepens and brainwaves slow down. These physiological reactions are all components of the relaxation response. The opposite is true, as well – you’re likely to be more revved up when listening to rock or R&B. If you choose to eat at establishments where the music is loud and the lighting is low, bear in mind that it may affect your food choices in unhealthy ways.
Dipayan Biswas et al “Sounds like a healthy retail atmospheric strategy: Effects of ambient music and background noise on food sales.” Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science, April 30, 2018.
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