Can music change people’s habits?

I just got a great video from a friend which underlines the power of music. It shows that music can even change habits of people. In a Stockholm subway station musical stairs were installed. Based on the incentive to play with music – each step represented a piano tone – many people took the stairs instead of taking the escalator.

From my perspective this case demonstrates…that people like to play with music if it is easy accessible. As well – even so I do not know the percentage of people who changed their habit – it shows: music can  change people’s habits!

Researching the internet I found out that “musical stairs” have been installed for years in the Boston’s Museum of Science, Boston, Massachusetts, USA.

One You Tube comment stated that this idea is based on a MIT Thesis which was written 20 years ago. Does anyone of you have more inside information? Another interesting question to me is; for how long can you keep this installation at a frequently – often daily – visited place? How soon does it get on people’s nerves?


8 responses to “Can music change people’s habits?

  1. Hi,
    I’m amazed and impressed. I love the musical stairs. Nice to see that brands like Volkswagen invest in these kinds of Art-projects. As to your question: I think whether it gets on your nerves will depend on:
    a) your personality (kids will love it for a longer while probably)
    b) the volume of the music
    c) the tuning (it would have been a good idea to put the scales in a single key (e.g. C-Major). This way there will be no dissonances and it will be less nerve-wrecking if many people are on the stairs simultaneously)
    d) how many people are on the stairs at the same time (probably nerve-wrecking in the rush-hour).
    Alexander Wodrich

  2. We tried to sell more mexican chips in a super market (Netto) in Denmark. We did a test, where we one day played classical music, another day mexican, and the third day nothing behind the shelf with mexican chips. Simply done with a playlist on an iPod

    Afterwards we compared the sales figures with last year and compared that with 103 other Netto stores. The result was this:

    Classical music: sales on chips went up 146%
    Mexican: sales on chips went up 117%
    silence: no difference

    So yes, Music can change people habits. The result was presented on Nation Danish tv:

    • Hi Karsten,
      thanks for sharing your experience. Do have any idea why classical music had more impact on the sales figures (compared to mexican music)? Did people buy more – in general – when music was on?

  3. Karsten’s mexican chip trial looks very interesting indeed and certainly the conclusions accord broadly with the large scale research and strategy studies we have undertaken for major retailers.

    There is unfortunately a core problem with the Netto experiement as explained above in that research data from a single test site taken on a single day is not robust and can lead to an incorrect result.

    Russell Hart
    CEO Entertainment Media Research

    • Thanks for your input Russell.
      What makes me thing is that on the day mexican music was played the sales were not higher than on the day when classical music was played. As chips are in many cases an impulse purchase music can have a higher impact on the buying decision. As well music has more impact if people are uncertain about their buying decision as researched by Prof. A. North and outlined in the Post about Instore Music:

  4. Maybe I’ll add finding a way to associate music to Brooke’s list of ways to Change habits Any advantage is helpful. Nice post.

  5. Dear Dr Pullen,
    thanks for your comment. Even it’s a different – a more general – view on changing habits I found it an interesting read. By the way, as a fulbright scholar I had the opportunity to stay at West Point for a few days. Even it’s a long time ago (1992) I still remember it. It was a great experience.

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