Comparing music‐ and food‐evoked autobiographical memories in young and older adults: A diary study

Kelly Jakubowski, Amy M. Belfi, Lia Kvavilashvili, Abbigail Ely, Mark Gill, Gemma Herbert

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Downloads (Pure)


Previous research has found that music brings back more vivid and emotional autobiographical memories than various other retrieval cues. However, such studies have often been low in ecological validity and constrained by relatively limited cue selection and predominantly young adult samples. Here, we compared music to food as cues for autobiographical memories in everyday life in young and older adults. In two separate four‐day periods, 39 younger (ages 18–34) and 39 older (ages 60–77) adults recorded their music‐ and food‐evoked autobiographical memories in paper diaries. Across both age groups, music triggered more frequent autobiographical memories, a greater proportion of involuntary memories, and memories rated as more personally important in comparison to food cues. Age differences impacted music‐ and food‐evoked memories similarly, with older adults consistently recalling older and less specific memories, which they rated as more positive, vivid, and rehearsed. However, young and older adults did not differ in the number or involuntary nature of their recorded memories. This work represents an important step in understanding the phenomenology of naturally occurring music‐evoked autobiographical memories across adulthood and provides new insights into how and why music may be a more effective trigger for personally valued memories than certain other everyday cues.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)580-604
Number of pages25
JournalBritish Journal of Psychology
Issue number3
Early online date13 Feb 2023
Publication statusPublished - 19 Jul 2023


  • ageing
  • autobiographical memory
  • diary methods
  • involuntary memory
  • music‐evoked autobiographical memory
  • retrieval cues
  • music-evoked autobiographical memory
  • Cues
  • Music/psychology
  • Mental Recall
  • Humans
  • Memory, Episodic
  • Emotions/physiology
  • Young Adult
  • Adult
  • Aged


Dive into the research topics of 'Comparing music‐ and food‐evoked autobiographical memories in young and older adults: A diary study'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this