Can Music Really Affect Your Food Choices?

Is there a relationship between Music and Food?

Saaniya Aamir
May 24, 2019 · 5 min read
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What kind of Food do you prefer?

All of us are Joey Tribbianis’ at heart, whether we learn to control our impulses and manage our diets or have standard two pizzas every Friday, we all love food. However, if someone were to ask me what kind of food I prefer, I’d say it varies every day, depending on the mood. Somedays I’d go for proper Chinese food, while the others I would just order some bigger-than-my-mouth, good Ol’ Burger, dripping in mozzarella.

What kind of Music do you prefer?

Whether it is rock, pop, jazz- we all have our preferences. For instance, during parties, I usually prefer loud, upbeat music that I could dance to, but when I am home all alone, I secretly like to listen to the old classics(Can’t help falling in love by Elvis Presley- still my favorite!).

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Photo by Hanny Naibaho on Unsplash

Music holds the ability to change our mood within seconds. Listening to slow songs takes us down the memory lane, helps us reminisce, remember old friends, conversations and important moments from our life making us nostalgic. Meanwhile listening to a more upbeat song recharges us, helping some people focus while making the others want to dance.

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Photo by Brooke Winters on Unsplash

Stress-eating is a thing. The relationship between our mood and the type of food we eat is a much-discussed topic. Whether it is an important exam, or a difficult decision or even a breakup, we eat. From finishing buckets and buckets of ice cream to filling ourselves with all kinds of junk food, we binge on unhealthy food like anybody’s business when we are stressed.

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In a recent group of studies, published in the Journal of Academy of Marketing Science, Dipayan Biswas investigated the ‘Effects of ambient music and background noise on food sales’.

With the multiplying chains of restaurants and new places opening every day, the competition in the Food industry is crazy. New restaurants are going to lengths to increase their sales and establish their name in the market. While the food remains the same more or less, these restaurants are enhancing their ambiance to attract customers.

In this research, Biswas studied the effects of ambient music on the food choices customers make. But how does music set the ‘ambiance’? It depends on the volume at which it is set and the genre of the music.

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Photo by Drew Patrick Miller on Unsplash

It is a long used marketing strategy by numerous outlets, where they use the volume of the music to select the age group of potential customers. For example, what kind of music comes to your mind when you think of a chic cafe or a burger place filled with high schoolers? Nothing except loud, upbeat music- The newest hits.

Whereas you’d see the opposite atmosphere if you go for a ‘fine dine’. The music is definitely mellow and the customers are mostly adults.

In one of the studies, a cafe was randomly chosen, located in a quiet neighborhood. Two days were selected to test out the hypothesis. On Wednesdays, only mellow, softer songs were played whereas on Fridays considerably louder music was played. At the end of the chosen time frame, it was found almost 43% of healthy food was ordered on Wednesdays(low volume) and while only 32.49% of healthy food was sold on Fridays(High volume).

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Photo by Yuan Thirdy on Unsplash

In another study by Biswas, he chose a number of college students to test out the effect of different music genres on the food choices. To substitute as ‘loud music’ a series of heavy metal rock music was used and students were asked to choose from chocolate and granola bars. The results showed that during the heavy metal rock, only 52.57% chose granola bars as compared to 92% for the alternate.

He explained the results by saying: “The findings of our research suggest that relaxation that stems from low volume music leads to [an] increased preference for healthy foods.”

Loud Music and Stress-Eating:

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Photo by Ethan Sexton on Unsplash

Loud music/ background noise can be a lot sometimes. It can make you uncomfortable, it can stress you out and can seem to get on your nerves. This stress causes your body to crave all kinds of unhealthy foods. and that’s how you start stress eating.

“Not surprisingly, chronic dieters and restrained eaters are especially sensitive to the effects of stress. Excitement/stress lead individuals to choose unhealthy foods mainly because sweet and fatty foods help reduce high levels of excitement and stress. In fact, research with both humans and animals suggests that unhealthy/comfort foods can alleviate physiological stress responses.”

Slow Music and Relaxation:

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Photo by Eli DeFaria on Unsplash

The opposite effect is shown by playing slow, meditative music, as shown in a study, by L. Bernardi and co-authors where they carried out measured the cardiovascular and respiratory changes in a patient as he listened to music.

They concluded their research by explaining the effects of music.

“ Music induces an arousal effect, predominantly related to the tempo. Slow or meditative music can induce a relaxing effect; relaxation is particularly evident during a pause. Music, especially in trained subjects, may first concentrate attention during faster rhythms, then induce relaxation during pauses or slower rhythms.”

Hence the more relaxed you are, the better choices you make.

  1. Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science.
  2. Heart. 2006 Apr; 92(4): 445–452.

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