Music, emotion, and autobiographical memory: they're playing your song

Mem Cognit. 1999 Nov;27(6):948-55. doi: 10.3758/bf03201225.


Very long-term memory for popular music was investigated. Older and younger adults listened to 20-sec excerpts of popular songs drawn from across the 20th century. The subjects gave emotionality and preference ratings and tried to name the title, artist, and year of popularity for each excerpt. They also performed a cued memory test for the lyrics. The older adults' emotionality ratings were highest for songs from their youth; they remembered more about these songs, as well. However, the stimuli failed to cue many autobiographical memories of specific events. Further analyses revealed that the older adults were less likely than the younger adults to retrieve multiple attributes of a song together (i.e., title and artist) and that there was a significant positive correlation between emotion and memory, especially for the older adults. These results have implications for research on long-term memory, as well as on the relationship between emotion and memory.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aging / psychology*
  • Cues
  • Emotions*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Life Change Events*
  • Male
  • Mental Recall*
  • Music*
  • Retention, Psychology