Faculty Sponsor: Dr. Kristi Multhaup, Dr. Greta Munger
Music has been shown to evoke vivid and specific autobiographical memories. Two experiments examine music’s ability to activate two different kinds of memory recall: direct retrieval and generative reconstruction. Direct memories come to mind quickly and with little effort, while generative memories come to mind slowly and require effort to recall. Experiment 1 included 58 Davidson College students (ages 18-22, M = 19.24, SD = 0.98) who received both word-based and musical memory cues. Experiment 2 included 56 members of the Choral Arts Society of Davidson (ages 23-79, M = 56.51, SD = 16.71) who received both familiar and unfamiliar musical memory cues. After data was collected in both experiments, memories were categorized as either direct or generative based on the amount of effort participants indicated was associated with recall. Results demonstrate that participants’ direct memories were more frequent and vivid than their generative memories (Experiment 1 and Experiment 2). This difference in vividness was more pronounced in music-evoked memories compared to word-evoked memories (Experiment 1). Words evoked more vivid memories than music (Experiment 1) and familiar music evoked more vivid memories than unfamiliar music (Experiment 2). There was a marginally significant positive correlation between musical experience and the prevalence of direct memories.