Individual Project, Version 2

Individual Project Proposal

Primary Question: Are (non-explicitly musically trained) shoppers more likely to feel confident in their purchasing choices if they have been previously been entrained to music that expresses confidence?

Realizing that it would be implausible to complete this experiment in the next two months, I instead propose a project that will take the next semester to complete. This experiment will be in two parts:

Part 1) Gabrielsson (2001, 2010) provided compelling evidence that listeners do, in fact, experience real emotions based on music that they hear. The scale of these emotions, obviously, are vastly different based on personal factors, situational factors, etc, but very few people are constantly unmoved by all types of music. Even in the case of Gerling and dos Santos (2007), listeners perceived emotions expressed in the music, although they did not always match the intended ones.

However, Juslin, Liljestrom, Vastfjall, and Lundqvist (2010) propose that music induces emotions in only 55-65% of listening experiences. This represents a different theory: that to derive emotional value from music takes significantly more mental energy than just aurally processing music. According to this study, listeners do NOT always perceive emotions expressed in music.

I propose to test how often music that intentionally expresses the emotion of “confidence” actually makes the listener feel the intended emotion. First, I would create an online survey with about 20 different songs, and ask people to choose one of eight adjectives that best describes the piece. (These 20 songs would be picked from the classical genre so that words are not a confounding factor, and preferably NOT broadly known popular songs so that familiarity would not become a confound.) This would test the Gabriellson/Gerling conclusion that people do in fact hear emotions intended in music, and do agree with them (even if the emotion is not necessarily felt.) I would then have a scale where participants would rate how strongly they agree with the adjective’s connection to the music (which would test the Juslin et al theory—if people generally do not agree with their own choices or do not feel strongly about them, then perhaps this would throw off the study from the very beginning.)

After receiving survey responses, I would narrow down the song choices to the top two rated “most confident” songs, and the two that were rated antonyms, such as “timid” or “shy.” These two songs would become crucial for Part 2.

Part 2) There are a great many studies that have been written about shoppers and their participation with music while shopping. In Gordon C. Bruner’s study, “fast tempi elicited responses relating to exhilarating/joyous sorts of feelings…and sales volume is significantly higher with slow music than with fast music.” Part 2 is a simulation of a shopping experience influenced by the music chosen in part 1. First, they will be told to fill out a form with biographical information (how much musical training each participant had received) and wait in a waiting room, where either the “confident” music or the “timid” music will be playing. The participant will stay there for a minimum of 10 minutes.

After listening to the music, the participant will enter a different room, where he or she will be given a shopping list and a “budget” on a computer simulation. He or she will be shown computer screenshots from inventory of a well-known store, such as Target, and asked to purchase as many items as possible from the list while staying under budget. For example, if the shopping list says “laundry detergent,” the screenshot will show 4 or 5 brands of detergent with the different price points. (The one caveat to this is that at the lowest price point, there will always be more than one brand. This measure prohibits people from simply mathematically calculating the best option possible and choosing these items, rather than choosing those that they themselves would purchase.)

The computer will time, down to the nearest second, the length of time that it takes for participants to make their choices.

I hypothesize that those people that were entrained (consciously or not) to isochronous rhythms that people identified as “confident” will make, on average, faster and more decisive purchasing choices.

3 thoughts on “Individual Project, Version 2

  1. This is an ambitious project, and I agree with you that for this semester, you will need to focus on preparatory work. At a minimum, it would be desirable to do a lit review that provides a clear summary of findings from music and emotion research in which the issue of perceived versus induced emotions is clarified and various methods that could be used to disentangle the two are surveyed.

    The specifics of the experiment proposed will also need to be re-evaluated in light of the lit review. Here are a few points to keep in sight:

    1. Musical materials: You propose to use “songs” from the “classical genre.” The reasons you give are to avoid the use of “words” and familiarity. So, maybe you don,t really mean “songs” at all (which usually have text) or do you mean that the text would be suppressed somehow? Or, would you use words in a language that is not understood by the participants? The familiarity confound is also problematic in relation to classical music because a lot of classical music is used in publicity and films, and thus very familiar even to people who do not voluntarily listen to classical music. There might be other ways to account for familiarity as a factor.

    2. You seem to focus on the element of speed in the later part of your proposal, but it is not clearly set up early on. You would need to make sure to focus on that element in your background research and come up with a clear theory and hypotheses related specifically to tempo. How that specific component will be evaluated in the experiment also needs to be thought through.

    3. The experimental procedure itself is compelling and might be a very clever way to get at induced emotions. To be convinced though, you will need to look carefully into the research that ties emotions and shopping behavior (and more specifically “confidence”). It is not clear to me exactly how “confidence”, can be a musical emotion. I’ll be curious to see what the music psychology research has to offer.

  2. Hey Julia. I like this project. It’s fun. My main question would be similar to Eve’s; how might speed and the emotional and shopping research you’ve cited relate to confidence? Specifically, if you give shoppers a test to shop under a budget, how might this test confidence?–I like your set up determining confident music, but I think your experiment as designed can only be correlational with regards to existing research.

  3. Very interesting. I’m sure you’re aware of the shopping study regarding wine and music ( which showed that a specific type of song would influence a specific type of purchase (French music, French wine, etc.). So I guess my comment would have to do with biasing based on selection of type of music: if you have, say, some cheese with an Italian name (Sargento) versus generic (Stop & Shop), will the faster choice be made due to actual confidence or an underlying bias variable (faster to choose Italian cheese because they heard Italian opera as opposed to J-pop)?

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