Academic journal article Psychomusicology

The Involuntary Musical Imagery Scale (IMIS)

Academic journal article Psychomusicology

The Involuntary Musical Imagery Scale (IMIS)

Article excerpt

Spontaneous cognitions, in the form of memories, concurrent processing and future planning, comprise a large part of everyday mental activity (Killingsworth & Gilbert, 2010; Kvavilashvili & Mandler, 2004). One prolific type of spontaneous, involuntary cognition is "involuntary musical imagery" (INMI, or "earworms"). The term INMI describes the experience whereby a short section of music comes into the mind, spontaneously, without effort, and then repeats without conscious control (Liikkanen, 2012; Müllensiefen, Fry, et al., 2014; Williamson et al., 2012).

Estimates suggest that ^90% of people experience INMI at least once per week (Liikkanen, 2012). The majority of such experiences is evaluated as pleasant (Beaman & Williams, 2010; Halpern & Bartlett, 2011) although around a third of episodes are classified as annoying or disturbing (Hemming, 2009; Williamson, Liikkanen, Jakubowski, & Stewart, 2014). Many individuals develop active strategies to ameliorate unwanted INMI experiences (Williamson et al., 2014).

Studies exploring INMI have noted a number of triggers for the experience, including situational context and psychological states (moods/emotions) (Liikkanen, 2012; Williamson et al., 2012) and features of the music (Williamson & Müllensiefen, 2012). In addition, demographic studies related to INMI experiences have isolated predispositional traits, including gender (Liikkanen, 2012, though see Beaman & Williams, 2010; Hyman et al., 2013), age (Liikkanen, 2012), and levels of musicality (Beaman & Williams, 2010; Floridou, Williamson et al., 2012; Liikkanen, 2012; Müllensiefen, Fry, et al., 2014).

Despite the growth of INMI research in recent years, few studies have focused on individual differences beyond demographic and lifestyle factors. The small number of studies that have been conducted outside these basic areas focus primarily on personality factors, including the Big Five (Floridou et al., 2012), schizotypy, openness to experience and thought suppression (Beaman & Williams, 2013), transliminality (Wammes & Baruss, 2009), and nonclinical obsessive-compulsive trait (Müllensiefen, Fry, et al., 2014).

One of the abovementioned studies, in particular, is notable, as it involved the development of a Musical Imagery Questionnaire (MIQ; Wammes & Baruss, 2009). This scale, based on the assessment of 67 individuals, was used to measure INMI presence and its relationship to transliminality, susceptibility to and awareness of self-generated thoughts (Thalbourne & Delin, 1994). The authors identified six dimensions in the MIQ, namely, Unconscious, Persistent, Entertainment, Completeness, Musicianship, and Distraction, and reported an association between transliminality and three of these factors (Unconscious, Persistent, and Distraction). This questionnaire was valuable in aiding the identification of relationships between aspects of INMI experiences and individual differences; however, the inclusion of items pertaining to nonspontaneous musical imagery and other musical behaviors in the scale means that it cannot be considered as a pure measure of the INMI experience.

Müllensiefen, Fry, et al. (2014) developed a questionnaire with an exclusive focus on the INMI experience, in order to investigate associations with personality. This questionnaire was completed by 1,787 individuals and factor analysis yielded a single factor, "INMI disturbance." This factor included items relating to the subjective valence of INMI experiences and the degree to which INMI episodes were considered disturbing. This study demonstrated an interesting correlation between scores on "INMI disturbance" and high levels of (subclinical) Obsessive Compulsive Trait, but the presence of only a single factor in the scale suggests that the original questionnaire items were insufficiently broad to capture multiple aspects of the INMI experience. The present study was conducted with the aim of developing and validating an improved questionnaire, which would capture multiple aspects of the INMI experience. …

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