How the sound frequency of background music influences consumers’ perceptions and decision making

Tsutomu Sunaga*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

28 Citations (Scopus)


This study examined how music frequency affected consumers’ perception and decision making. The results of three experimental studies show that music frequency affects perceived distance between the sound source and the perceiver. Consequently, the representation of marketing message that matched (vs. mismatched) the background music's frequency enhanced consumers’ evaluative judgments. Specifically, Study 1A demonstrates that low-frequency (vs. high-frequency) music increased perceived distance. Studies 2, 3A, and 3B indicate that low-frequency (high-frequency) music matched products with abstract (concrete) representations and marketing messages signifying far (near) psychological distance. The congruency between psychological distance induced by music frequency and mental representations of products and message orientation offers a novel perspective on the notion of congruency. Moreover, Study 2 provides evidence that supports the congruency–fluency–evaluation chain (i.e., the mediating role of fluency), and Studies 3A and 3B show that the congruency has downstream effects. This study provides a theoretical contribution to the literature on the effects of music in marketing contexts by presenting convergent evidence that individuals exposed to low-frequency (high-frequency) music are inclined to construe a marketing message at a high (low) level.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)253-267
Number of pages15
JournalPsychology and Marketing
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2018 Apr
Externally publishedYes


  • congruency
  • fluency
  • frequency
  • music
  • sensory marketing

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Applied Psychology
  • Marketing


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