Investigating the Relationship Between Involuntary Musical Imagery and Other Forms of Spontaneous Cognition

Floridou, Georgia A.. 2016. Investigating the Relationship Between Involuntary Musical Imagery and Other Forms of Spontaneous Cognition. Doctoral thesis, Goldsmiths, University of London [Thesis]

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Abstract or Description

Music can exist without sound. In the absence of sound, the mind can, deliberately or not, recall familiar music or generate novel musical material. The ubiquitous, internal experience of music that comes to the mind unintentionally and repeats itself, known as involuntary musical imagery (INMI), constitutes the focus of the present thesis.

The aim of this research was to investigate the relationship between INMI and other forms of spontaneous and creative cognition in order to (a) elucidate the cognitive states preceding INMI, (b) identify individual differences related to spontaneous phenomena, and (c) describe phenomenological aspects of novel INMI. Three studies focused on the connection between INMI and spontaneous cognition. A probe-caught experience sampling and a behavioral study showed that the cognitive states associated with INMI occurrence are related to low cognitive load, as holds for other involuntary phenomena. The development of a scale measuring different INMI aspects revealed similarities with other forms of spontaneous cognition and allowed the exploration of individual differences as well as the investigation of relationships with other aspects of musical behaviors and auditory imagery abilities. A fourth, interview-based study explored the relationship between novel INMI and creative cognition and by elucidating the phenomenological aspects of the experience as well as of the translation of the inner experience to an external outcome, identified similarities with familiar INMI, voluntary musical imagery, and creative musical imagery.

Overall, the results of this research suggest that INMI overlaps to some extent with other forms of spontaneous and creative cognition, music perception, and voluntary musical imagery. Novel methodological tools that were developed for the purposes of this research and findings regarding the subjective evaluation of the experience and the element of repetition will also be discussed. Finally, issues related to terminology, length of the experience, research methodology, future avenues, and possible applications will be considered.

Item Type:

Thesis (Doctoral)

Identification Number (DOI):


involuntary musical imagery, earworms, spontaneous cognition, creative cognition


30 November 2016

Item ID:


Date Deposited:

21 Dec 2016 12:31

Last Modified:

08 Sep 2022 11:44


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