Music to the inner ears: Exploring individual differences in musical imagery

Roger E. Beaty, Chris J. Burgin, Emily C. Nusbaum, Thomas R. Kwapil, Donald A. Hodges, Paul J. Silvia

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

34 Scopus citations


In two studies, we explored the frequency and phenomenology of musical imagery. Study 1 used retrospective reports of musical imagery to assess the contribution of individual differences to imagery characteristics. Study 2 used an experience sampling design to assess the phenomenology of musical imagery over the course of one week in a sample of musicians and non-musicians. Both studies found episodes of musical imagery to be common and positive: people rarely wanted such experiences to end and often heard music that was personally meaningful. Several variables predicted musical imagery, including personality, musical preferences, and positive mood. Musicians tended to hear musical imagery more often, but they reported less frequent episodes of deliberately-generated imagery. Taken together, the present research provides new insights into individual differences in musical imagery, and it supports the emerging view that such experiences are common, positive, and more voluntary than previously recognized.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1163-1173
Number of pages11
JournalConsciousness and Cognition
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 2013

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology


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