Photograph By: Carsten Guth

On any given trip to a store, restaurant, or any public space, you’ll likely be subjected to some kind of music. It may go consciously unnoticed, but the music is very tactfully played, in hopes to change the behavior of those listening.

When discussing grocery store music with Dr. Glen Hodges, the Deputy Head of Music at Tasmania’s Conservatorium of Music, radio host Louise Saunders states that “we personally use music to achieve a state that we want to be in. Either relaxation, or energy, or just something to get us through the house-cleaning. So it probably makes sense that institutions would also use it to make us behave differently.”

This is indeed true. Neel Burton writes that the music played in restaurants has a very influential, and purposeful effect both on the customers, and on their perception of the food. He gives the following example: “according to research from the Crossmodal Research Laboratory at the University of Oxford, people associate higher notes, flutes, and tinkling piano with sweetness; and deeper, more resonant notes with bitterness.”

The effects of music on the mind and human behaviour extend far beyond shopping and eating; music in public spaces has also been utilized as a way to reduce crime. On the show Conducting Business, host Naomi Lewin looks into this phenomenon. Many businesses and public spaces (most notably, transit centers) have played classical music as a means of deterring loiterers and criminals from the area.

It’s to be expected that the music we hear can shape the world around us, but to what degree? It’s difficult to say with certainty, but the effects are certainly more prevalent than most would expect. Even the unnoticed, backdrop music of an environment can alter our behaviour, our perceptions, and our minds.