15 September 2016

HEALTH - Music Influences Mood and Behaviour

For humans, music is as intimate and integral as a heartbeat. Music can heal, and the beat of a drum can help the heart and mind.

Researchers are still asking why music is so effective in so many therapies.

Music therapy, the intentional use of specific music to assist with medical conditions, is used in treatments as diverse as enhancing the communication of non-verbal children with autism to reducing anxiety and recovery time for patients undergoing surgery.

Music therapy has also been used to treat trauma, dementia, and as a coping and educational tool for individuals with disabilities.

PetSmart’s move to bring intentional, carefully selected music into their stores and PetsHotel boarding facilities no doubt draws on the ability of music to calm stressed animals – whether those animals are humans, dogs, cats, or other pets.

But music is more than simply therapeutic. It also entertainment, communication, and background noise, and people encounter music most often outside of clinical settings.

Wherever it is heard (or played), music has an effect.

Favourite songs can cause the same physical responses as intense emotional arousal, with dilated pupils, rising pulse and blood pressure, and even blood being redirected to the legs and feet.

Music also has an effect on the behaviour of shoppers, and that’s another reason PetSmart is wise to team up with Mood Media for background music in their retail locations. Multiple studies have shown that the volume, tempo, and genre of background music can affect consumers’ behaviour in various ways.

Slower tempos tend to keep customers in stores longer, and in one 1982 study showed a 38% increase in gross product sales in a grocery store.

A 1999 study showed similar results in a restaurant, and also offered insight into how to move consumers through the environment quicker during peak periods, by increasing the tempo of the music.

Newer research has added nuance to the understanding of how music affects consumer behaviour. Mode may be just as important as tempo, and music in the major mode (which is often perceived as “happy”) has the same effect regardless of tempo, but music in the minor mode (“sad”) is significantly more effective when paired with slower tempos.

Music is used for everything from entertainment, to marketing, to therapy for a wide range of issues. Humans have been making music since prehistory, and may even have learned to make music from observing animals.

Research continues into how music can influence mood, health, and behaviour, but regardless of whether the hows and whys are understood, humans will continue making and listening to music.

It’s been part of the human experience for almost as long as there have been humans, and may have been one behaviour that differentiated Homo Sapiens from Neanderthals. It’s clear that this tradition will continue.

By Tiffany Sostar
Tiffany is a writer, editor, academic, and animal lover who came late to her appreciation of pets. At 18, a rescue pup named Tasha saved her from a depression and she hasn't looked back. She has worked as the canine behaviour program coordinator for the Calgary Humane Society, and was a dog trainer specializing in working with fearful and reactive dogs for many years. She doesn't have any pets right now, but makes up for it by giving her petsitting clients (and any dogs she comes across on her frequent coffee shop adventures) extra snuggles.

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