We compared young adults’ autobiographical (AB) memories involving Music to memories concerning other specific categories and to Everyday AB memories with no specific cue. In all cases, participants reported both their most vivid memory and another AB memory from approximately the same time. We analyzed responses via quantitative ratings scales on aspects such as vividness and importance, as well as via qualitative thematic coding. In the initial phase, comparison of Music-related to Everyday memories suggested all Musical memories had high emotional and vividness characteristics whereas Everyday memories elicited emotion and other heightened responses only in the “vivid” instruction condition. However, when we added two other specific AB categories (Dining and Holidays) in phase two, the Music memories were no longer unique. We offer these results as a cautionary tale: before concluding that music is special in its relationship to cognition, perception, or emotion, studies should include appropriate control conditions.
Involuntary musical imagery (INMI) describes the everyday phenomenon of having a tune stuck in the head. Research has established the ubiquity of this form of spontaneous cognition but the predictive role of individual differences is still debated. This study examines the impact of everyday musical behaviors and subclinical obsessive compulsive attributes on INMI experiences. In total 1,536 participants completed three online questionnaires; a novel inventory of musical behavior and INMI, and a standardized obsessive compulsion (OC) inventory. Exploratory factor analysis ( N = 512) and structural equation modelling ( N = 1,024) were applied. Everyday singing and music listening positively predict length and frequency of reported INMI episodes, respectively. No relationships were found with musical training. High OC was positively related to INMI frequency and disturbance, but only indirectly to INMI episode length and unpleasantness. The identified contributory factors of INMI experiences are discussed in the context of musical memory and spontaneous mental activity.