Can Classical Music Help You Shop Smarter

Business Professor’s Research Shows that Slow Tempo Classical Music Helps Shoppers with Math Anxiety Calculate the Best Deal

Did you ever go into a store and wonder how the background music impacts your shopping experience, especially if you are trying to calculate the best deal?

According to a new study co-authored by Shan Feng, assistant professor of marketing and management, people with math anxiety tend to avoid doing calculations that would result in cost savings, but slow tempo classical music eases their anxiety and enables them to figure out the best price.

A typical consumer might have to decide, for example, whether it is cheaper to buy an item at its regular price, as part of a product-bundle, or as a single item from a product-bundle. A shopper with math anxiety usually picks the first option because it requires no computations, but it’s also the most expensive.

“When people with math anxiety shop, we found that slow classical music in the background helps to ease their anxiety,” explains Feng, who co-authored the study with Rajneesh Suri at Drexel University and Monique Bell at California State University, Fresno. “Some of them will then do the calculations and see which item is cheaper.” Conversely, the study showed that fast music or no music heightened anxiety.

In the study, two shopping lists were created and participants (William Paterson and Drexel undergraduate students) were instructed to “go shopping” and use $10 to buy items on each list. The objective was to achieve the most savings. Participants were randomly assigned to one of two music conditions and indicated their anxiety or emotional state as they shopped. Participants showed relief from anxiety when the tempo of background classical music was slow but not when it was fast.

Although prior research has been conducted on how background music influences consumer purchases, Feng says that this is the first research focused on customers’ math anxiety. The study will be published in an upcoming issue of Psychology & Marketing Journal.

Can Classical Music Help You Shop Smarter?