Piano and sheet music

The Soundtrack to Decision Making

Man Made Music (MMM) is a strategic music and sound studio that unlocks the power of sound for entertainment, brands and people. MMM builds unique sonic identity architectures that efficiently and effectively tie media, spaces, products and devices together.  The company also provides music supervision, artist partnerships, user interface sound design and live events solutions, as well as television, film, and new media themes and underscores.

Executive Summary 

Project overview

TDL and MMM collaborated on this project to determine whether specific acoustic environments can change people’s perception of time and their emotional states. Past work has shown that people in negative emotional states make worse decisions, and that the feeling of waiting engenders frustration and anger. Thus, in situations where people are forced to wait, the acoustic environment created during this time may be a determinant of various important outcomes – from brand loyalty to subsequent decision making.

Our approach

This report integrates and synthesises current perspectives and research in auditory and temporal psychology to provide an overview of time perception, its impact, and reasons for distortions in time perception. As a second step, we conducted an MTurk experiment to measure the effect of auditory stimuli on retrospective time estimates and emotional responses. This allowed us to, in collaboration with MMM, create actionable recommendations that can be implemented by sonic designers who want to create an environment more conducive to positive feeling, brand loyalty and ultimately better decision making.

What you can expect from this document

Our report provides recommendations to promote better sound design, grounded in existing insights from behavioral science and our own empirical research. The lay-reader can expect to gain an in-depth understanding of how sound influences a range of behaviours from shopping habits, to time perception. A more seasoned sound designer can use this report to identify the conditions under which time is underestimated and negative emotions are mitigated. This can allow them to tailor interventions to the goals of an environment – for example, to improve decision making, reduce stress or promote healing. 

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Eager to learn about how behavioral science can help your organization?