The use of emotionally arousing music to enhance memory for subsequently presented images

Sherilene M. Carr, Nikki S. Rickard

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)


Emotion-enhanced memory occurs when an arousal response to an emotion stimulus strengthens memory consolidation. We tested whether listening to emotionally arousing music enhanced memory in this way. In a within-subjects design, 37 participants (18 to 50 years, 22 female) listened to two of their own highly enjoyed music tracks, two self-rated neutral tracks from other participants? selections, and a five-minute radio interview. After each listening episode, participants memorised a unique array of 24 images. Subjective and physiological emotional arousal was monitored throughout the experiment and free recall of all images within the five image arrays was tested at the end. As predicted, compared to the music and non-music controls, self-selected enjoyed music elicited greater subjective and physiological changes consistent with emotion, and more details from images presented after enjoyed music were recalled than after listening to the radio interview. A multiple regression analysis revealed that physiological changes consistent with an emotional arousal response to enjoyed music reliably predicted memory. Further research with larger samples is needed to replicate these exploratory findings.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1145-1157
Number of pages13
JournalPsychology of Music
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2016


  • emotional arousal
  • everyday life
  • memory
  • music
  • psychophysiology

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