I’ve always said there’s a song for every life event.
Songs for break ups, make ups and everything in between.
“I don’t want to wait for our lives to be over …”
The original theme song to cult classic, Dawson’s Creek but it also brings back memories of summers at Seaford beach, spag bol’ and listening to mum as she practiced with her pianist.
“Suddenly I see … This is what I wanna be …”
The opening credits in The Devil Wears Prada but the song that brings back memories of my first post-university job (as a community dietitian back then) in country Victoria where I knew that while I enjoyed dietetics, I wanted more to be a journalist.
While it might be annoying when these tunes get stuck in your head on repeat at times, new research from UC Davis suggests these experiences are more than a passing nuisance – they play (no pun intended) an important role in helping memories form.
“Scientists have known for some time that music evokes autobiographical memories, and that those are among the emotional experiences with music that people cherish most,” says UC Davis Professor of Psychology and co-author of this new study, Professor Petr Janata.
“What hasn’t been understood to date is how these memories form in the first place and how they become so durable, such that just hearing a bit of a song can trigger vivid remembering,” he adds.
The study, Spontaneous Mental Replay of Music Improves Memory for Incidentally Associated Event Knowledge, published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, worked with UC Davis undergraduate and graduate students who were asked to listen to music while they watched a movie clip and then were asked to remember as many details as they could from each movie as the music played.
Reportedly, they found that the more the tune played, the more accurate the memory, and the more details the person remembered from the specific section of the movie with which the tune was paired.
“Our paper shows that even if you are playing that song in your mind and not pulling up details of memories explicitly, that is still going to help solidify those memories,” says Professor Janata.
“We typically think of earworms [aka having a song stuck in your head] as a random nuisance beyond our control, but our results show that earworms are a naturally occurring memory process that helps preserve recent experiences in long-term memory.”
How cool is that! The effect of music is so much more profound than we think. So, next time a song gets stuck in your head rather than getting annoyed, know it’s helping your long-term memory.
And with that I leave you with the soundtrack to another one of my faves that also brings back some recent memories of my summer with J. And those moments, I never want to forget.