Music, Memory, and Imagination

Elizabeth Hellmuth Margulis, Kelly Jakubowski

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This article argues that the capacity of music to reliably cue both autobiographical memories and fictional imaginings can be leveraged to better understand the relationship and interdependence between memory and imagination more generally. The multiple levels involved in musical engagement provide a rich forum for investigating how emotional, semantic, and contextual associations with musical cues influence both memories and imaginings. Moreover, musical excerpts are extended in time and can influence the trajectory of a memory or imagining dynamically as it develops, allowing for a more precise manipulation of the implied semantic space. Because music’s uses and contextual associations are culturally constrained, and culture can be shared, autobiographical memories and fictional imaginings cued by music can show surprising similarities among individuals from the same culture. This article surveys the research on music-evoked autobiographical memories and music-evoked fictional imaginings, proposing a framework for bringing these separate strands of work together to shed light on larger questions about shared underlying mechanisms.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)108-113
Number of pages6
JournalCurrent Directions in Psychological Science
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 2024

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Psychology


  • autobiographical memory
  • imagination
  • music


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