Understanding inner music: a dimensional approach to musical imagery

UNCG Author/Contributor (non-UNCG co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Katherine N. Cotter (Creator)
The University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG )
Web Site: http://library.uncg.edu/
Paul Silvia

Abstract: Inner music—hearing music inside your head that isn’t playing in the environment—is a common experience that takes many forms. Research on inner music, however, has primarily emphasized instances of involuntary, aversive musical imagery, such as “earworms.” The present research develops a new conceptual framework, consisting of five fundamental dimensions, that can advance our understanding of inner music. In an experience-sampling study, a sample of musicians and people from the general university community (N = 132) was recruited to examine inner music as it occurs in-the-moment in everyday life. Over the course of a week, participants were contacted throughout the day and asked about their experiences with inner music, with an emphasis on the five dimensions: Affective Valence, Repetitiveness, Vividness, Mental Control, and Length. The results showed that there is variability at both the within-person and between-person levels on each of the proposed dimensions—people have a variety of musical imagery experiences, not just a few different types. Additionally, these dimensions were related to three different individual difference factors: personality, musical expertise, and auditory imagery ability. Openness to experience and extraversion, musical training, and the ability to form vivid auditory images were the primary predictors of the qualities of inner music. Additionally, the present research has implications for how musical imagery is measured—retrospective and in-the-moment reports differed considerably, suggesting people cannot accurately recall their inner music experiences. Overall, the findings show considerable variability in musical imagery and that focusing on specific types of inner music (e.g., earworms) ignores many other experiences. Looking at the qualities of inner music will be fruitful for future work and broaden the scope of research.

Additional Information

Language: English
Date: 2017
Experience Sampling Methodology, Inner Music, Musical Imagery
Music $x Psychological aspects
Musical perception

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