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How Different Types Of Music Affect What Memories People Remember

Update Date: Mar 02, 2017 06:55 PM EST

It is a given fact that music plays a significant role in the retrieval of memory. Specifically, the emotions that music evoke in a person help him or her remember past memories. A recent study conducted by researchers from McGill University investigated how different types of music affect what type of memories people remember.

The study, published in the journal Memory & Cognition, sought to determine how different emotional characteristics of memory recall cues, in this case, the use of music as a cue, affect how fast the study's participants recall an autobiographical memory and the quality of the memory recalled. In particular, the researchers focused on how two aspects of emotions, valence (positive or negative) and arousal (high or low) influence memory recall.

Moreover, the researchers analyzed how fast the participants recalled a memory. They also assessed the relationship between the type of musical cue and how it evokes the remembrance of a positive or negative memory and whether the memory recalled was influenced by the valence and arousal of the musical retrieval cue.

The researchers were also interested in determining the vividness of the memory recalled in relationship with the emotional characteristics of the cue. In addition, the study also tested how the presentation of the musical retrieval cue (in either block or random fashion) affect memory processing and remembrance.

The results of the study found that people who listened to music that evoked happy (positive valence, high arousal) emotions are quicker to remember an autobiographical memory of the same emotion. The researchers also found that the valence of the emotional cue affects how vivid or clear the memory recalled by the participant.

Meaning that people remember more richly from musical retrieval cues of both positive valence and high arousal associated with memories of in an energetic or social setting. The study also found that block presentation of the musical retrieval cues affected how faster and how vividly the memory is remembered.

The study had a total of 48 participants who listened to 32 newly composed piano pieces which evoked four retrieval conditions: peaceful (positive, low arousal), happy (positive, high arousal), sad (negative, low arousal), or scary (negative, high arousal). The participants were asked to recall a memory where they were personally involved and the details regarding said memory. They were asked to press a key on a keyboard once memory was recalled and were asked to described the remembered memory as detailed as possible.

The researchers noted the response time, the type of musical cue and emotions that evoked the memory, the vividness of the memory recalled, and whether the memory remembered was unique or relates to an energetic or social setting.

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