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Effects of background music on the remembering of filmed events

Abstract

The use of background music within films provides a naturalistic setting in which to investigate certain issues of schematic processing. Here, the relative placement of music was manipulated such that music either accompanied a scene’s outcome, and thereby accentuated its affective meaning, or foreshadowed the same scene, and thereby created expectancies about the future course of events. In addition, background music was either congruent or incongruent with the affect of an episode’s outcome. When subjects were later asked to recall the series of filmed episodes, results showed that expectancy violations arising from mood-incongruent relations led to better memory in the foreshadowing condition, while mood-congruent relations led to better performance in the accompanying condition. Results from a recognition task further revealed that scenes unavailable for recall could be recognized when cued by background music. These overall findings are discussed in terms of selective-attending processes that are differentially directed as a function of background music.

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Correspondence to Marilyn Boltz.

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This research was supported by a Faculty Research Grant from Haverford College.

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Boltz, M., Schulkind, M. & Kantra, S. Effects of background music on the remembering of filmed events. Memory & Cognition 19, 593–606 (1991). https://doi.org/10.3758/BF03197154

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