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Description: I am sure I do not have to tell you that psychology is a very broad discipline. However in addition to its breadth psychology is can also be seen as a hub science, meaning that research and theoretic work in psychology informs thinking and scholarship in a wide range of other disciplines. Another aspect of psychology’s broad range of influence (and a really good reason for every post-secondary student to take at least one or a few psychology courses as part of their program of study) are its scientific foundations. Humans are difficult things to study (e.g., rocks do not talk back to geologists) and the ongoing research work of psychologists to gain deeper understanding of human thoughts, emotions, behaviors and experiences is taken up and utilized to advance work and research in a wide range of other fields (e.g., education, business, public health etc. etc.). The science foundations part of how psychologists do the research they do is what makes the usefulness of the research that psychologists generate viable. So, I write a LOT in this blog about the vital importance of having a working understanding of the science of psychology in order ensure you avoid making “people are like…” statements without scientific support. When the topic of psychological interest is, say, how the brain processes contradictory information we are not likely to leap in with our personal thoughts or hypotheses as we realize that we do not have access to MRI scanners or other tools needed to observe brain activity. Sometimes, however, a question seems to more readily invite subjective speculation that may not follow the steps of scientific investigation. Here is an example of such a question for you to consider and to see how psychological sciency (for want of a better term) your approach to the question is. I will quote here the question that opens the article linked below:

“You’re walking down a busy street on your way to work. You pass a busker playing a song you haven’t heard in years. Now suddenly, instead of noticing all the goings on in the city around you, you’re mentally reliving the first time you heard the song. Hearing that piece of music takes you right back to where you were, who you were with and the feelings associated with that memory.”

A very human experience isn’t it. What are your first thoughts as you consider the general question “why is that?” If your first thoughts are not stated in terms and phrases reflecting good scientific methodology (assuming, of course that you are not deeply familiar with research on this topic already) then step back and consider what sorts of hypotheses you might pose to start an investigation of this why is that question and then think about what sorts of research studies you might design in order to test your hypotheses. Once you have all that roughed out in your mind have a read through the article linked below in which the author does a very good job of doing what I have just asked you to do (applying psychological science to an interesting part of human experience).

Source: Why does music bring back memories? What the science says, Kelly Jakubowski, The Conversation.

Date: March 9, 2023

Image by PublicDomainPictures from Pixabay

Article Link:

So, how did your scientific research plans for investigating “music-evoked autobiographical memory” compare to the approaches (and conceptual terms) described by the music psychology author/researcher? If you consider the map of disciplinary cross fertilization generated by the researchers who examined (with the help of analytic algorithms) over one million research articles in over 7000 journals (you can see it in either of the first two linked articles in the References/Read Further section below and the first one also explains nicely how to read the map) you can see that Psychology, with its commitment to scientific methods has become one of seven hub sciences that informs and supports research, theory and application work in a broad range of disciplines. A little psychology is good for everyone as we try to make sense out of the world around us (and of ourselves and the people around us).

Questions for Discussion:

  1. What does it mean to describe psychology as a hub science?
  2. How much work did you have to do to shift your initial thinking about what was referred to in the linked article as music-evoked autobiographical memory in the direction of a scientific approach?
  3. Did you have any (constructively) critical thoughts about the way that the studies described by the researcher who wrote the linked article were designed and run?

References (Read Further):

Cacioppo, J. (2007). Psychology is a hub science. Aps Observer, 20. Link

Boyack, K.W., Klavans, R., & Börner, K. (2005). Mapping the backbone of science. Scientometrics, 64, 351-374. Link

Salakka, I., Pitkäniemi, A., Pentikäinen, E., Mikkonen, K., Saari, P., Toiviainen, P., & Särkämö, T. (2021). What makes music memorable? Relationships between acoustic musical features and music-evoked emotions and memories in older adults. PloS one, 16(5), e0251692. Link

Jakubowski, K., & Ghosh, A. (2021). Music-evoked autobiographical memories in everyday life. Psychology of music, 49(3), 649-666. Link

El Haj, M., Antoine, P., Nandrino, J. L., Gély-Nargeot, M. C., & Raffard, S. (2015). Self-defining memories during exposure to music in Alzheimer’s disease. International Psychogeriatrics, 27(10), 1719-1730. Link

Jakubowski, K., & Eerola, T. (2021). Music evokes fewer but more positive autobiographical memories than emotionally matched sound and word cues. Journal of Applied Research in Memory and Cognition, 11(2), 272–288. Link

Jakubowski, K., & Francini, E. (2022). Differential effects of familiarity and emotional expression of musical cues on autobiographical memory properties. Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, 17470218221129793. Link

Jakubowski, K., Belfi, A. M., & Eerola, T. (2021). Phenomenological differences in music-and television-evoked autobiographical memories. Music Perception: An Interdisciplinary Journal, 38(5), 435-455. Link