This song gets stuck in your head, but it helps you remember it


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If you’ve been watching TV since the 1990s, it’s likely that the sitcom theme song, “I’ll Be There for You,” has gotten into your head at one point or another. New research from UC Davis suggests that these experiences are more than a passing nuisance: they play an important role in helping to form memories, not only for the song, but also in life-related events, such as hanging out. with friends or watching other people stay with their friends. on the 1990s television show, Friends.

“Scientists have known this for a long time evoke , and that these are some of the emotional experiences with music that people love the most, “said Petr Janata, a psychology professor at UC Davis and co-author of a new study.

“What hasn’t been understood so far is how these memories are formed in the first place and how they become so lasting, so just listen a little bit it can trigger a vivid memory, ”Janata said.

The paper, “Spontaneous Mental Reproduction of Music Improves Memory for Knowledge of Incidentally Associated Events,” was published online at Journal of Experimental Psychology: General. Co-authors are Janata and Benjamin Kubit, a postdoctoral researcher in cognitive neuroscience, both from the UC Davis Department of Psychology and the Center for Mind and Brain.

This new research offers a first look at these mechanisms and, surprisingly, finds that songs that stick to the head help this process of strengthening memories as they form for the first time, the authors said. Therefore, this is the first research to relate two of the most common phenomena that people experience with music: worms (having a song stuck in their head) and the memory evoked by music.

For their latest study, the researchers worked with 25 to 31 different people in each of the three experiments, for three different days, separate weeks. Subjects first listened to unknown music and then, a week later, listened to the music again, this time paired with clips from unknown films. In one case, they played without music. He , all undergraduate and graduate students at UC Davis were asked to remember as many details as they could of each film as the music played. They were also asked about their memory of the associated melodies and how often they experienced each of the melodies as an ear worm. None of them had formal musical training.

Repetition and accuracy

The results: The more often a song plays in a person’s head, the more accurate it will be because the melody became and, critically, more details reminded the person of the specific section of the film with which the melody was combined.

With only a week between when they saw the film and when they were asked to remember as many details of the film as they could while listening to the soundtrack of the film, the effect of experiencing of the soundtrack as an ear worm resulted in an almost perfect preservation of the film’s details. In fact, the memories of these people were as good as when they had first seen the film. In addition, most subjects were able to report what they normally did when ear worms occurred, and none of them mentioned the associated films that came to mind at the time.

“Our paper shows that even if you are playing this song in your mind and not explicitly drawing details from memories, this will still help solidify those memories,” Janata said.

“We usually think ear worms are random annoyances beyond our control, but our results show that ear worms are a natural memory process that helps preserve recent long-term memory experiences,” he said. dir Kubit.

Future help to lose memory?

The authors said they hope the ongoing research can end with the development of music-based non-pharmaceutical interventions to help people with dementia and other neurological disorders better remember events, people, and people. daily tasks.

The study finds that listening to music at bedtime disrupts sleep

More information:
Benjamin M. Kubit et al, Spontaneous mental reproduction of music improves memory for knowledge of incidentally associated events., Journal of Experimental Psychology: General (2021). DOI: 10.1037 / xge0001050

Citation: This song stays in your head, but it helps you remember (2021, June 15), retrieved June 15, 2021 at

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