Decades of research has been conducted looking into what influences our decision-making in restaurants and practically every consumer setting. Now research by the Journal of the Academy of Marketing Sciences has shown that the music volume in a restaurant determines how we order and eat.

The louder a restaurant plays the music in the dining room, the more we will order and eat. Research findings specifically showed that customers are more likely to order unhealthy options because the louder music increases their heart rate. So, when you feel an increase in heart rate,  this causes elevated levels of arousal and reduced inhibition which lure customers to eat larger and unhealthier orders of food.

The Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science’s description of how consumers acted when there was loud music made me think of alcohol – the reduced inhibitions and increased arousal will lead to succumbing to the urge to eat a large, greasy pizza. Softer music would then have the opposite effect of calming the customer, making it easier to choose a healthier option because there is less stress and it is easier to think.

A team of scientists from South Florida University replicated the results at a cafe in Stockholm, Sweden: patrons of the cafe were 20 percent more likely to order something unhealthy when the volume in the establishment was raised by 15 decibels.

Although these findings will come as a surprise to few of us, I think it is important to understand the unseen forces that affect our decision making without us knowing. Our brains respond to a series of stimuli that influence our choices and we may have less control over it than we think.

So the next time you are trying to start a diet or want to enjoy a healthy meal, think about turning down the stereo or choosing a calming playlist to help stop your brain from fighting against your healthy choices.