Aarhus University, Denmark; Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing, China
The influence of taste-congruent soundtracks on visual attention and food choice: A cross-cultural eye-tracking study in Chinese and Danish consumers
Sound can have a profound impact on our eating experience and behavior. The term “sonic seasoning”, arising from crossmodal correspondences, denotes the tendency for soundtracks with congruent taste/flavor attributes to alter people’s food perception. However, the implicit behavior effects of such sound-taste correspondence have not yet been tested. Employing eye-tracking technology, the current study explored the influence of custom-composed taste-congruent soundtracks on visual attention to food, and how this audio-visual relationship differs across cultures. Seventy-two participants (37 Chinese; 35 Danish) were each exposed to three sound conditions (“sweet music”, “salty music”, no music) while observing different food items in a choice paradigm. Across both cultures, participants spent more time fixating on sweet food while listening to “sweet music” and salty food when listening to “salty music”, while no differences were observed in the no music condition. Danish participants had, regardless of sound condition, longer fixation times on the food images compared to their Chinese counterparts. Participants’ choices in each sound condition were consistent with fixation time spent, implying a clear congruency effect between music and choice behavior. Our findings provide evidence of how specifically tailored music can guide consumers’ visual attention to specific food items, suggesting that the brain indeed integrates multiple streams of sensory information during decision-making. The cross-cultural aspect of our study can ultimately be valuable for understanding auditory nudging in different market segments.