Junk food or salad, ambient music influences your choice of food at restaurants | Health - Hindustan Times
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Junk food or salad, ambient music influences your choice of food at restaurants

Hindustan Times | By
May 29, 2018 02:51 PM IST

Louder environments inspire diners to crave greasy cheeseburgers and fries, instead of making healthier choices like salads, says a new study.

Ambient music in restaurants can influence what food people choose, say scientists including one of Indian origin. They found that louder environments inspire diners to crave greasy cheeseburgers and fries instead of making healthier choices like salads.

Louder environments increase stimulation and stress, making diners choose junk food like cheeseburgers and fries.(Shutterstock)
Louder environments increase stimulation and stress, making diners choose junk food like cheeseburgers and fries.(Shutterstock)

Volume is proven to directly impact heart rate and arousal. Softer music has a calming effect, making us more mindful of what we order, researchers said. This typically results in healthier choices, such as a salad. Louder environments increase stimulation and stress, making diners choose junk food like cheeseburgers and fries, according to a study published in the Journal of the Academy of Marketing Sciences.

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“Restaurants and supermarkets can use ambient music strategically to influence consumer buying behaviour,” said Dipayan Biswas, a professor at the University of South Florida in the US. Researchers conducted the study at a cafe in Sweden, which played various genres of music in a loop separately at 55 and 70 decibels.

Softer music has a calming effect, making us more mindful of what we order. (Shutterstock)
Softer music has a calming effect, making us more mindful of what we order. (Shutterstock)

What the study shows

The menu items were coded as healthy, non-healthy and neutral, the category used for items like coffee or tea. During the experiment conducted over several hours across multiple days, researchers found 20% more restaurant patrons ordered something unhealthy when exposed to louder ambient music compared to those who dined during a quieter time.

While previous studies have looked at varying aspects of ambience’s impact on food sales such as lighting, scent and decor, this is the first study to look specifically at how volume dictates healthy vs non-healthy food choices. These findings allow restaurant managers to strategically manipulate music volume to influence sales.

A good night’s sleep can serve as a protecting factor between job stress and unhealthy eating in the evening. (Shutterstock)
A good night’s sleep can serve as a protecting factor between job stress and unhealthy eating in the evening. (Shutterstock)

Other factors that influence you to eat junk food

* Lack of sleep

A study shows that a good night’s sleep can serve as a protecting factor between job stress and unhealthy eating in the evening. “We found that employees who have a stressful workday tend to bring their negative feelings from the workplace to the dinner table, as manifested in eating more than usual and opting for more junk food instead of healthy food,” said Chu-Hsiang “Daisy” Chang, MSU associate professor of psychology and study co-author.

* Being bored

If you have nothing interesting to do, chances are you will be drawn towards chips and cookies despite being full, according to a study done by the University of Central Lancashire (UCLan). The results strengthen the theory that boredom is related to low levels of the stimulating brain chemical dopamine and that people try to boost this by eating fat and sugar if they cannot alleviate their boredom in some other way.

* Junk food is more distracting than healthy food

Researchers at Johns Hopkins University in the US found that fatty and sugary food, such as doughnuts and pizzas, are almost twice as distracting as healthy food until you have eaten some of it. The study, published in the journal Psychonomic Bulletin and Review, underscored people’s implicit bias for fatty, sugary foods.

(With inputs from PTI)

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  • ABOUT THE AUTHOR
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    Soma is an Assistant Editor for the weekend supplement HT 48 Hours. She writes on lifestyle, art and culture.

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