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Music evokes fewer but more positive autobiographical memories than emotionally matched sound and word cues

Jakubowski, K. and Eerola, T. (2022) 'Music evokes fewer but more positive autobiographical memories than emotionally matched sound and word cues.', Journal of Applied Research in Memory and Cognition .


Anecdotal propositions that music is “special” as a memory cue have been partially supported by research demonstrating that music can evoke qualitatively different autobiographical memories than various other cues. However, it is unknown whether such differences in memory qualities may be attributed to inherent differences in properties of the retrieval cues. Across four online experiments, we tested whether unfamiliar musical retrieval cues exhibit differential effects on autobiographical memories when compared against matched emotional cues (environmental sounds and words). The music consistently elicited fewer memories in comparison to sound and word cues. Music also evoked relatively positive memories regardless of its valence, with negative-sounding music reliably bringing back more positive memories than negative sounds/words. Words elicited memories rated as more unique than music-cued memories. These results have implications for the use of music as a memory cue in both research and practical contexts, from music therapy to advertising.

Item Type:Article
Full text:(AM) Accepted Manuscript
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Publisher statement:© American Psychological Association, 2022. This paper is not the copy of record and may not exactly replicate the authoritative document published in the APA journal. Please do not copy or cite without author's permission. The final article is available, upon publication, at:
Date accepted:01 September 2021
Date deposited:16 December 2021
Date of first online publication:09 December 2021
Date first made open access:16 December 2021

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