Listening to happy or peaceful music can make pleasant memories spring into your mind, while sad or scary tunes may invoke negative emotions, a new study has found.
Researchers from McGill University in Canada studied 48 participants, who were made to listen to 32 newly composed piano pieces unknown to them in 30 seconds.
The pieces were grouped into four retrieval cues of music, happy (positive, high arousal), peaceful (positive, low arousal), scary (negative, high arousal) and sad (negative, low arousal).
Participants were then asked to recall events in which they were personally involved, that were specific in place and time and that lasted less than a day.
As soon as a memory came to mind, participants pressed a computer key and typed in their accessed memory.
The researchers noted how long it took participants to access a memory, how vivid it was and the emotions associated with it.
The type of event coming to mind was also considered and whether for instance it was quite unique or connected with an energetic or social setting.
Memories were found to be accessed most quickly based on musical cues that were highly arousing and positive in emotion and could therefore be classified as happy.
A relationship between the type of musical cue and whether it triggered the remembrance of a positive or a negative memory was also noted.
The nature of the event recalled was influenced by whether the cue was positive or negative and whether it was high or low in arousal.
"High cue arousal led to lower memory vividness and uniqueness ratings, but both high arousal and positive cues were associated with memories rated as more social and energetic," said Signy Sheldon from McGill University.
Researchers found that a greater proportion of clear memories were recalled when highly arousing positive cues were played in a blocked fashion.
Positive cues also elicited more vivid memories than negative cues. In the randomised condition, negative cues were associated more vividly than positive cues, researchers said.
The study was published in the journal Memory and Cognition.