Beyond Mood Congruence
Like it or not, music is everywhere. Our lives are accompanied by an omnipresent personal soundtrack—whether we are on our way to work, at the grocery store, at a movie, watching TV, or simply relaxing at home. It seems that the only way human beings have been able to tolerate this extraneous stimulus is, simply, by not consciously attending to it. Otherwise, we would most likely crash our cars, purchase the wrong items at the store, and never quite understand what happened in that movie we had just seen. Despite the technological advances in music recording and production (and, in turn, availability), very little psychological research has focused on the effects of music processing (especially at the unconscious level) on memory consolidation and storage. What previous memory research has shown is that human beings tend to exhibit an attentional enhancement for emotional stimuli when presented alongside non-emotional stimuli (Reisberg & Heuer 2004). Specifically, this finding has demonstrated that emotional events promote memory for "central" components of an event, while having a reverse effect for an event's "periphery." In the current study, I employed the medium of film in order to apply this hypothesis to our musical world. Participants were randomly assigned to one of three groups: 1) a "no music" group, in which participants viewed a film clip in silence; 2) a "with music" group, in which participants viewed the same clip with the film's original, low-quality (and low arousal) recorded soundtrack; and 3) a "re-mastered music" group, in which participants viewed the film clip with a higher quality (and higher arousal) soundtrack. Three main results were found, all of which either aligned with or extended the findings of Reisberg & Heuer to include the domain of music as a modulatory force in the formation of emotional memories.