Effect of Music on Buyer Behaviour


28 Mar 2018

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  • John Sweeney



It has long been believed that music is known to have a positive effect on human emotions by lifting an individual’s mood leading to an overall better quality of life by promoting happiness, positive social interactions and a higher income. If music can have this much influence on how an individual feels as well as behaves, it is possible music can have an influence on how an individual will spend money as well as how much money an individual is willing to spend. One way of knowing for sure is to use a simple experiment to test the theory of does the genre of music an establishment play effect its profit?


Music psychology is a modern branch of psychology that explores the relationship between music and human behavior. Music has many benefits for human-beings ranging from health benefits, creativity, intelligence, social behavior and therapy. Past research has linked music to personalities and researchers claim to be able to tell if an individual is an introvert or extrovert by the type of music they listen to. Extraversion and openness are believed to widely predict an individual’s music preference. For example sensation seeking or excitement correlates positively with rock music. In the past previous researchers measured music preference with audio stimuli and has evolved over the years by measuring music preferences by means of rated music genres. Although the topic can be a bit controversial as some believe bias may exist as not all individuals who listen to a genre of music may have the same meaning of that genre. Another example is the stereotypes perceived with genres of music that individuals may hold bias against these genres (Langmeyer et al., 2012).

Biopsychosocial Review of Music and its Effects on the Brain

Music is known to influence and enhance an individual’s emotions or feelings. To fully understand how music affects the human brain and its responses one must first understand the biological, psychological and sociological processes which occur as well as how these processes interact with each other. Biologically, the neurobiological framework such as the central nervous system regulates bodily functioning as well as the mental processes of feelings. Changes in an individual’s environment such as hearing music are sensed by the exteroceptive system. These two systems work together and operate interactively in triggering drives and emotions to reach or maintain a homeostasis balance. Signals pass through the neural structures of the brainstem and of the cerebral cortex which triggers an emotion or the mental experience known as a feeling. Psychologically, when music is added to the process, feelings are evoked ranging from happiness to sadness or even joy to fear. Pleasant as well as unpleasant music greatly influences these feelings. Next, physiological and behavior changes follow in which the autonomic nervous system is now affected by changes in breathing, blood flow, heart rate and even skin responses such as temperature. Sociologically, music has always played part in the socialization of human-beings from various celebrations such as marriage, death, religion and other social events. Social emotions from music play a major role by reducing and enhancing negative and positive conditions (Habibi et al., 2014).

Music as a Therapeutic Instrument

One major benefit of music is its ability to therapeutically heal and help an individual. Individuals who suffer from traumatic brain injuries show great response to the use of music in cognitive rehabilitation. Neuromusicology and music cognition suggest that when an individual who suffers from TBI indulges in music their brain is capable of restoration and brain functioning is altered through cognitive exercises through plasticity. A therapeutic process known as neurologic music therapy (NMT) is used in these individuals through a systematic treatment method to improve cognitive domains of functioning, language and sensorimotor through the use of music. TBI sufferers are not the only individuals to benefit from NMT rehabilitation as it is also used in sufferers of depression, anxiety and mood disorders. Music is believed to lower agitation and provide feelings of ease and calm in these individuals such as with mindfulness during meditation. Past research has also shown music-based intervention can lead to improvement in sensory perceptions, speech production as well as enhance adaptive behavior (Hegde, 2014).

Music and Consumer Behavior

When a retail establishment wishes to make large profits from its consumers they must consider the background setting and the atmosphere of the consumer’s experience. Previous theoretical and empirical research has shown a correlation between environment and characteristics of consumer behavior. It is believed that situational moderators could alter the consumer’s behavior during the evaluation, purchase, and post-purchase stages. Along with the retail atmosphere, service interface, social environment, assortment, price and brands also contribute to the customer’s overall experience as well as effecting consumer behavior (Ferreira & Castro, 2011).

This is where music plays a role in altering consumer behavior. Consumers are more likely to enjoy shopping to background music which is familiar, provides a positive effect and suits their musical preference. High tempo music is believed to raise arousal among consumers during the shopping process. Since music influences as well as impacts human emotions it is important for a retail establishment to take into consideration of the background music atmospherics. In order to manipulate a consumer’s behavior the three dimensional emotional structure of environmental stimulus which consists of pleasure vs displeasure, arousal vs non-arousal, and dominance vs submissiveness should be considered in positively or negatively influencing the consumer’s behavior (Ferreira & Castro, 2011).

To determine the effects music has on an establishment one may utilize an experiment in which the independent variable of background music can be manipulated and correlated with the establishments gain or loss of profit due to the increase or decrease of consumer flow and spending. The following experiment would be adequate in these finding.



Participants of this experiment will be the shoppers of the establishments chosen for the purpose of this experiment. However, these participants will be “blinded” as they will be unaware of the establishment’s change of the background music in which they are shopping to.


The procedure of this experiment will consist of three large retailers such as Best Buy, Target and JC Penny in an urban area during operating hours for a total of 3 weeks in which these retailers have agreed to alternate 3 genres of music per each week of rock, pop and hip hop. During this procedure data will be recorded and collected of each of the participating retail establishments such as flow of consumers, the amount of time the consumers spent in the establishments and weekly reports of revenue.


Results from this experiment should give the researcher adequate data to positively correlate the effects of changing the independent variable along with the increase or decrease of customer flow and revenue from the selected establishments. Significant differences between genre and quality measures are also to be expected in determining the preferred preference of music type during the shopping experience. Some implications of this experiment may be due to retail environment atmospherics effects such as environmental stimuli. Since the experiment proves to be correlational an assumption of accurate causal relations between variables mentioned above needs to be taken into consideration.


Music is a powerful instrument which has a powerful effect and influence on human behavior. Whether it be to regulate moods, provide a therapeutic approach or even be used as a manipulator of consumer behavior one thing is for certain there is still more research to be done in fully understanding the underlining effects music has on the human brain and psyche. Although, past studies have been conducted to investigate the effects music has on an establishment’s profit and the consumer’s behavior, the experiment mentioned above will prove to be a useful tool for further investigations. Perhaps other retail establishments may even catch on and change their environmental atmospherics to give the consumers an overall more enjoyable shopping experience as well as increase their overall profits from doing so.


Ferreira, D., & Oliveira-Castro, J. (2011). Effects of background music on consumer behaviour: behavioral account of the consumer setting. Service Industries Journal, 31(15), 2571-2585. doi:10.1080/02642069.2011.531125

Habibi, A., & Damasio, A. (2014). Music, feelings, and the human brain. Psychomusicology: Music, Mind, and Brain, 24(1), 92-102. doi:10.1037/pmu0000033

Hegde, S. (2014). Music-based cognitive remediation therapy for patients with traumatic brain injury. Frontiers in Neurology, 51-7. doi:10.3389/fneur.2014.00034

Langmeyer, A., Guglhör-Rudan, A., & Tarnai, C. (2012). What do music preferences reveal about personality? A cross-cultural replication using self-ratings and ratings of music samples. Journal of Individual Differences, 33(2), 119-130. doi:10.1027/1614-0001/a000082


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