The Effects of Ethnically Congruent Music on Eye Movements and Food Choice—A Cross-Cultural Comparison between Danish and Chinese Consumers

Musical fit refers to the congruence between music and attributes of a food or product
in context, which can prime consumer behavior through semantic networks in memory. The vast
majority of research on this topic dealing with musical fit in a cultural context has thus far been
limited to monocultural groups in field studies, where uncontrolled confounds can potentially
influence the study outcome. To overcome these limitations, and in order to explore the effects of
ethnically congruent music on visual attention and food choice across cultures, the present study
recruited 199 participants from China (n = 98) and Denmark (n = 101) for an in-laboratory food choice
paradigm with eye-tracking data collection. For each culture group, the study used a between-subject
design with half of the participants listening to only instrumental “Eastern” music and the other
half only listening to instrumental “Western” music, while both groups engaged in a food choice
task involving “Eastern” and “Western” food. Chi-square tests revealed a clear ethnic congruency
effect between music and food choice across culture, whereby Eastern (vs. Western) food was chosen
more during the Eastern music condition, and Western (vs. Eastern) food was chosen more in the
Western music condition. Furthermore, results from a generalized linear mixed model suggested
that Chinese participants fixated more on Western (vs. Eastern) food when Western music was
played, whereas Danish participants fixated more on Eastern (vs. Western) food when Eastern music
was played. Interestingly, no such priming effects were found when participants listened to music
from their own culture, suggesting that music-evoked visual attention may be culturally dependent.
Collectively, our findings demonstrate that ambient music can have a significant impact on consumers’
explicit and implicit behaviors, while at the same time highlighting the importance of culture-specific
sensory marketing applications in the global food industry.

The design of the experiment and preprocessing of data was carried out using iMotions software 

Acknowledgments: The authors would like to thank Kiara Heide and Tue Hvass from the iMotions
Customer Success Team for technical support of the eye-tracking design and Yihang Huang for assisting the participant recruitment

Keywords: consumer behavior; cross-culture; eye-tracking; food choice; musical fit;
sensory marketing

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