Individual Differences Predict Patterns in Spontaneous Involuntary Musical Imagery

Müllensiefen, Daniel; Fry, J.; Jones, Rhiannon; Jilka, S.; Stewart, Lauren and Williamson, Victoria J.. 2014. Individual Differences Predict Patterns in Spontaneous Involuntary Musical Imagery. Music Perception, 31(4), pp. 323-338. ISSN 0730-7829 [Article]

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Abstract or Description

Involuntary musical imagery (INMI) describes the everyday phenomenon of having a tune stuck in the head. Research has established the ubiquity of this form of spontaneous cognition but the predictive role of individual differences is still debated. This study examines the impact of everyday musical behaviors and subclinical obsessive compulsive attributes on INMI experiences. In total 1,536 participants completed three online questionnaires; a novel inventory of musical behavior and INMI, and a standardized obsessive compulsion (OC) inventory. Exploratory factor analysis (N = 512) and structural equation modelling (N = 1,024) were applied. Everyday singing and music listening positively predict length and frequency of reported INMI episodes, respectively. No relationships were found with musical training. High OC was positively related to INMI frequency and disturbance, but only indirectly to INMI episode length and unpleasantness. The identified contributory factors of INMI experiences are discussed in the context of musical memory and spontaneous mental activity.

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involuntary musical imagery; 'earworms'; spontaneous cognition; obsessive-compulsive behaviors; mental imagery

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April 2014Published

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Date Deposited:

13 May 2014 12:38

Last Modified:

29 Apr 2020 15:59

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Yes, this version has been peer-reviewed.


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