1. General Topic and Hypothesis: This
study develops a new method to research automatic processes quantitatively
through involuntary musical imagery, or INMI. INMI is what occurs when music
“gets stuck in your head” and you do not know where it comes from, and its
repetitiveness differentiates it from other forms of musical imagery. The
researchers hypothesized that INMI is similar to voluntarily recalled music in
that people experiencing it can reproduce its tempo accurately and that there
is a positive correlation between participants’ self-reported arousal and the
tempo of their INMI. Additionally, an INMI in a major key should be associated
with a positive emotion, while an INMI in a minor key is associated with a
negative emotion.


2. Method: The study is not presented as
an experiment with a control group and an experimental group, but it is
hypothesized that the independent variable is the subjective arousal and
positivity of the participants and the dependent variable is the tempo and mode
of their INMI. Participants were instructed to tap to the beat of their INMI on
a watch-like accelerometer, then answer pre-specified questions about the song
and their current emotional state (using a scale corresponding to levels 1-7) in
a diary. They did this for every instance of INMI they had for 4 consecutive


3. Summary of Results: The tempi of the
participants’ INMI songs were very similar to the actual tempi of the
corresponding canonical songs (the original version of the song, or the one you
would hear on the radio) in the instances where a canonical song was available
(some songs, like many holiday songs, do not have one definitive version). The
data also indicate a positive correlation between arousal of the participant
and the tempo of their INMI, but there was no significant correlation involving
the mode of the INMI.


4. General
Conclusions: Everyone experiences INMI differently, as evidenced by the large
range of tempi (40-200 beats per minute) people produced in the study. There
could also be individual differences (such as being a pianist and practicing at
different tempi to learn a song) that influence one’s INMI and could be
explored further in a future study. The high accuracy of tempo in the study is
interesting because participants were not specifically told to be true to the
original song as they were in other, similar studies. These results indicate
that recall of tempo for INMI could actually be even more accurate than for
voluntary musical imagery. The relationship between arousal and tempo most
likely goes both ways, as it is impossible to tell a direction of causality
from the given information. This suggests that even music that is experienced
internally can have an effect on people’s mood. Finally, the lack of
relationship between subjective mood and the mode of the INMI experienced is
surprising, but the style of the study with its focus on tempo could have
weakened the influence of other aspects of music on the participants’ mental
state. Further studies that are more focused on the pitch of INMI could provide
clearer answers for this question.