We may have Erik Satie to blame for hold music—the composer “developed a very cynical attitude” toward a distracted listening public and decided modern music would be more like a chair than an intellectual pursuit—but the science behind it is state-of-the-art, Newsweek reports. Studies on the intrusion of recorded voices have found they're not so effective. But the determining factor appears to be expectation.
Sure, scientists have figured out how to tailor hold music to the customer—“time on hold seemed shortest for women exposed to alternative rock and for men exposed to classical music,” one says. But the real difference comes when those on hold are reminded that they are getting closer and closer to the front of the line, whether or not that’s true. Complaints arise, one researcher says, “because the systems are too long and too complicated.”