Music has proven to be a powerful emotional memory cue over the course of human history. When you hear a particular song you haven’t heard in years, it is guaranteed to bring about all the associated memories and emotions. It won’t be like you remember them, but rather reliving them as it takes you back to that very moment in time. This process through which music makes people re-experience memories, events, places, and people is called ‘music-evoked autobiographical memory.’ While the name is almost unknown, the experience in itself is very common.
Why the Connection
Music is generally associated with specific life events like weddings, graduations, funerals, etc., because of which it automatically plays the role of reconnecting us with them. Music also affects our physical and mental selves in ways that sometimes even the person experiencing it might not be able to point out. By drawing our attention, music sets itself up in connection with a significant event of our lives in our brains. This is so effective that it is able to have a recollecting effect even years and decades later. The familiarity of a particular piece of music along with the situation in which it was listened to, also plays a part in how and how well the memory can be recollected. Studies have also shown that the emotionality of a particular clip of music also has a relation with how effective it is as a memory cue.
An Experiment on Music
Through a group experiment, musical emotional cues were juxtaposed over other emotional cues that had similar or the same reactions or effects, including ‘emotional sounds’ and ‘emotional words.’ The results of this comparison showed that music proved to be a positive memory cue even if the mood of the music was negative. In such cases, the memories recollected were more positive than expected, which leads us to believe that music can effectively be used therapeutically.