Results have just been announced for the Magical Memory Tour, the largest ever international online survey which asked people to blog their memories of the Beatles to create the biggest database of autobiographical memories ever attempted.
The survey aimed to enhance our understanding of human memory by uncovering the role The Beatles and their music play in our personal histories. It was devised by psychologists Professor Martin Conway and Dr Catriona Morrison from the Institute of Psychological Sciences at the University of Leeds, who will be discussing their findings as part of the BA Festival of Science in Liverpool.
The six month online survey, launched by the BA (British Association for the Advancement of Science) during National Science and Engineering Week in March, generated some 3000 responses from people ranging from 17 to 87 years old and spanning 69 different nationalities. People were invited to blog the most vivid memory that came to mind relating to a Beatles album, song, news story or band member. The majority of respondents were ‘silver surfers’, between the ages of 55 to 65, who would have been teenagers during the Beatles heydays in the 1960s.
As expected, the majority of memories related to the teenage years of people’s lives, showing a classic reminiscence bump. The difference here is that the bump occurs slightly earlier in the lifespan than for autobiographical memories more generally, suggesting that music, or at least The Beatles’ music, is important in the storage of particularly early memories.
The song that emerged overall as generating the most memories was ‘She Loves You’. This is perhaps not surprising as this was the biggest selling single of the 60s and the Beatles most popular record ever.
With the exception of the murder of John Lennon, memories submitted were overwhelmingly positive, demonstrating that memory and emotion are linked. It seems that positive emotions are the ones primarily associated with shaping memory.
There were some differences between nationalities: English people related most memories to the song ‘She Loves You’, whilst for Americans it was ‘I Want to Hold Your Hand’; English people reported most film-associated memories to ‘Help’, while Australians reported most to ‘A Hard Day’s Night’. But what is more interesting than these relatively minor differences between nationalities is the similarities in terms of the moods, feelings, scenes and situations they relay. They show the influence The Beatles had as global cultural icons.
Dr Morrison says: ‘We are so impressed with how vividly people could recall memories sometimes from more than 40 years ago, especially when many eloquent and vivid memories appear to have been little recalled in decades. This shows the power of music in shaping and reliving sometimes long-neglected memories. We were very keen to examine the levels of emotionality in the uploaded memories. We had anticipated that women might have more emotional memories but this has not been substantiated by the data. This again emphasises the universality of The Beatles as a force in people’s lives.’
To read memories from the survey visit http://www.magicalmemorytour.com.
Magical Memory Tour is specifically supported by the Dana Alliance for Brain Initiatives and the Economic and Social Sciences Research Council (ESRC).
Materials provided by British Association for the Advancement of Science. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.
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