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Music-evoked autobiographical memories in everyday life

Jakubowski, Kelly; Ghosh, Anita

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Anita Ghosh


Music can be a particularly effective cue for bringing one back to the sights and sounds of events from across the lifespan. These music-evoked autobiographical memories (MEAMs) have typically been studied within laboratory experiments and clinical settings, often using experimenter-selected music to cue autobiographical memories. The present work took a more naturalistic approach, by studying the situational aspects, contents, and features of MEAMs within the course of participants’ everyday lives. Participants (N = 31) recorded details of their MEAMs and music listening habits in a diary for 7 days. MEAMs were experienced, on average, once per day and were cued by a wide variety of music, often during routine tasks such as traveling and housework. Everyday MEAMs were typically rated as highly vivid and involuntary and were often accompanied by positive or mixed emotions (e.g., happiness, nostalgia) and social themes. Some evidence of individual differences was found, with older participants rating their MEAMs as more vivid and accompanied by more positive emotions. The features reported within everyday MEAMs replicated several previous findings on MEAMs and autobiographical memory more generally, indicating that this naturalistic method was able to capture genuine MEAM experiences. Implications for future research on naturally occurring MEAMs are discussed.


Jakubowski, K., & Ghosh, A. (2021). Music-evoked autobiographical memories in everyday life. Psychology of Music, 49(3), 649-666.

Journal Article Type Article
Online Publication Date Dec 16, 2019
Publication Date May 1, 2021
Deposit Date Jan 3, 2020
Publicly Available Date Jan 3, 2020
Journal Psychology of Music
Print ISSN 0305-7356
Electronic ISSN 1741-3087
Publisher SAGE Publications
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 49
Issue 3
Pages 649-666


Published Journal Article (Advance online version) (496 Kb)

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Copyright Statement
Advance online version This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 License ( which permits non-commercial use, reproduction and distribution of the work without further permission provided the original work is attributed as specified on the SAGE and Open Access pages (

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