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Psychology of Christmas Music

Do you hear what I hear? The familiar seasonal sounds of Christmas music… since October.

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Does music play a role in what you buy? There’s an obvious influx in shoppers during the holiday season, easily recognized by crowded parking lots and longer check out lines, but is music really to blame?

Let’s see what science has to say.

In 1982, a New York City grocery store did a study on the tempo of music and its effects on their customers’ shopping habits. The store played slower tempo music and found that customers spent significantly more time in the store than usual and bought on average 32% more, when compared to times when the store played faster tempo music. This is easily explained by our body’s reaction to fast versus slow music. When we hear faster music, we tend to pick up the pace.

The volume of music was similarly tested on another store’s customers. Would music played at a higher volume affect customers’ buying habits? In the 1960s, a field experiment was conducted. It determined that females exposed to loud music while shopping think less time has passed than actually has. Whether this lead to an increase in spending was not determined.

So, how would Christmas music affect seasonal spending? Would the presence of Christmas music playing in the background while you shop urge you to purchase more holiday-related items?

In general, Christmas music is nostalgic (at least until you’ve heard Jingle Bells for the umpteenth time). Nostalgia invigorates feelings of happiness, which can lead to budget bumps on the spot, something retailers don’t mind. And if you catch yourself singing along, the irritation associated with overplayed seasonal sounds suddenly disappears.

A very formal survey of the office revealed that 90% of the group believes that Christmas music does influence your holiday purchase decisions. The general theme: Christmas music offers a subtle cue of the season and it’s expectations (aka: shopping).

As Christmas rings closer, are you still excited to hear Christmas music? When do you think is too early to start playing Christmas music?

Share your thoughts with us on Facebook and Twitter.

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