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A Quiet Disquiet: Anxiety and Risk Avoidance due to Nonconscious Auditory Priming

Michael L Lowe, Katherine E Loveland, Aradhna Krishna, Eileen FischerEditor, Amna KirmaniEditor and Andrea C MoralesAssociate Editor

Journal of Consumer Research, 2019, vol. 46, issue 1, 159-179

Abstract: Hearing is our highly sensitive warning system. As a sense, hearing has uniquely evolved to perform this alerting function and is perceptive to subtle ambient cues that are associated with threat. We propose that one aspect of sound that may cue such associations is pitch, such that low-pitch (vs. moderate pitch) background sound nonconsciously primes a threat response resulting in heightened anxiety among consumers. Furthermore, this emotional response manifests itself in the form of increased risk avoidance. Seven studies in varied domains demonstrate that low- (vs. moderate-) pitch background sound results in higher anxiety, which leads to risk-avoidant consumer choices—for instance, being willing to pay more for car insurance or choosing a food option with lower taste uncertainty.

Keywords: nonconscious priming; sensory marketing; atmospherics; advertising; sound; risk (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2019
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