Use sound to change your users behavior

Sometimes, it does not need much to influence the behavior of people. It can be the sound of a bell, you hear when you step into a shop and an employee reacts, it can be the sound of a traffic light before it turns red that makes you walk faster or the sound of a horn that makes you stop and have a look around.

The hearing sense is one of the five ways for us to perceive our environment and together with the other four (taste, feel, smell and see), we shape an image of the world around us which we can react to. Traditionally, it is actually through hearing that we communicate with our visual sense. You constantly catch sounds from your surroundings – even if you are not aware or are asleep.

Already today, we can see many examples of how sound influences our way of living and the way our society works. In this blogpost, we will therefore touch upon how sound can help you push your listeners, users or customers in the direction you would like them to go and therefore how you can use it to your advantage.

Nudging to change behavior

When talking about change of behavior, nudging is nowadays one of the keys even though it has existed for many years. If you actually are working with change of behavior in the big picture, nudging is what you should look into more closely.

Nudging is used within behavior economics and describes the way of giving people a little, nice push to get them to do something specific. In other words, you influence people to make a choice, you would like them to make.

Nudging is based on the premise that people are imperfect decision makers, who base their choices often on rationality and systematic patterns which make it possible to change people’s choices in the context where they have been made.

The sounds influence on behavior

We all have experienced how a certain sound can take us back to a specific time, place or situation and thereby trigger emotional reactions that can help motivate or inspire us. This includes all forms of auditory sensory perceptions, sound and music.

A classic example for learning and behavior is the study of Pavlovs dogs in which the russian scientist Ivan Pavlov discovered that he could connect the sight of food, the sound of a bell and the production of dog saliva.Additionally, he also transferred the behavior connected to a sound when it’s time to eat to increase the dogs saliva unconsciously.

If we look more closely at more recent examples, could it for example be that you listen to a specific playlist while running to keep you at a certain pace or that you listen to the sounds of water, the trees and birds while walking in the park to reduce your stress level. Horsens has here introduced interactive benches that use the sound of chirping birds and rain to create a relaxing atmosphere. There are also examples of a piano playing to motivate persons using the stairs when going up.

Sound plays a very special role, when it comes to behavior but also in terms of changing a behavior and is therefore often used by companies if they want their consumers to perform a certain action.

Sound can also be used to help people recognize a certain brand. Each and every brand usually uses a certain sound for identification purposes and big international brands can usually be recognized just by a certain sound. This is why sound plays a crucial part in conveying brand personality, providing trust and realness and helps humanize a product or service.

When we look at studies about behavioral changes so far, the focus was mainly on visual nudges instead of auditive ones. However, this should by no means prevent you from testing how sound can influence people’s actions.

Why can sound influence behavior?

Sound is closely related to our feelings, attention and actions. The auditory system of a person is there to help understand our surroundings and direct attention to the information we receive and should act upon. 

The police or ambulance and their connected sirens is a great example to showcase that we usually react faster to sound than to visual objects. Another example could be the famous “Jaws” music that is much more frightning than the actual plastic shark. This music has actually become a common thing when people intend to spread a spooky atmosphere.

This is why the potential of using sound and music to facilitate changes in behavior and bring forth users reactions is enormous. It is simply about being creative in the way it is used.

At VoiceArchive we are experts in sound

At VoiceArchive, we have helped many customers when it comes to projects involving sound. Here, we are experts for voice overs over a wider range of formats and industries. This is why you should not hold back if you wish to get help finding the right voice for your project, regardless of it is about brand awareness of behavioral change among your users to nudge them to perform a specific action.


Anna Sticken

Global Key Account Manager