Academic journal article Psychomusicology

Musical Minds: Personality, Schizotypy, and Involuntary Musical Imagery

Academic journal article Psychomusicology

Musical Minds: Personality, Schizotypy, and Involuntary Musical Imagery

Article excerpt

Musical imagery-hearing music in your mind that isn't playing in the environment-is a common experience (Williams, 2015). Research has sought to describe what it is like and how often it happens, with emphasis on involuntary musical imagery (INMI), sometimes referred to as earworms. Liikkanen (2012) found that about 90% of people experience INMI at least once a week and typically hear songs they are familiar with; other researchers have found similar results with INMI (Floridou & Müllensiefen, 2015; Halpern & Bartlett, 2011; Hyman et al., 2015) and musical imagery more broadly (Bailes, 2006; Beaty et al., 2013). In addition, research has found that people generally consider these to be positive experiences (Bailes, 2007; Beaman & Williams, 2010; Beaty et al., 2013; Floridou & Müllensiefen, 2015; Halpern & Bartlett, 2011; Hyman et al., 2015).

Although most research has examined what INMI and general musical imagery experiences are like, the present research focuses on INMI and how different aspects of these experiences relate to personality and schizotypy. To date, only a handful of studies have considered the role of personality traits in the experience of INMI and musical imagery more generally. Beaty et al. (2013) examined the Big 5 personality traits and general musical imagery using both experience sampling measures and retrospective surveys. In both cases, openness to experience-and, to a lesser extent, neuroticism- were related to how often people heard inner music. Similarly, Kellaris (2001) found that people higher in neuroticism experience INMI more frequently. These studies, however, did not examine how personality relates to different aspects of INMI experiences. Floridou, Williamson, and Müllensiefen (2012) found that, of the Big 5 personality traits, neuroticism and openness to experience were related to different aspects of INMI. Specifically, people high in neuroticism had longer episodes of INMI, found them more worrying, felt they were interfering with daily activities, and saw these experiences as more unpleasant; people higher in openness had longer episodes and felt their INMI interfered with their daily activities. From this small collection of studies, it appears that openness to experience and neuroticism relate to both INMI and general musical imagery experiences.

Additionally, some research has examined how INMI is associated with general mental control abilities and schizotypy. Schizotypy is a construct that represents the continuum of risk, from normal to clinical, for schizophrenia and related disorders (Kwapil, Barrantes-Vidal, & Silvia, 2008). Schizotypal experiences commonly sort into two broad factors: positive symptoms associated with deviant beliefs and experiences, and negative symptoms associated with diminished pleasure and motivation (Kwapil, Gross, Silvia, & Barrantes-Vidal, 2013). Mental slippage-low cognitive control-is a defining deficit in people with schizophrenia (Wongupparaj, Kumari, & Morris, 2015), and it is apparent in less severe forms in people with elevated schizotypy scores. Lower control in schizotypy is associated with reduced filtering of auditory stimuli as well as aberrant sensory experiences (Croft, Lee, Bertolot, & Gruzelier, 2001; Ettinger et al., 2015). This suggests that people high in schizotypy are more likely to experience involuntary imagery-specifically auditory imagery (Ettinger et al., 2015; Gray, Snowden, Peoples, Hemsley, & Gray, 2003; Lagioia, Van De Ville, Debbané, Lazeyras, & Eliez, 2010).

Beaman and Williams (2013) explored the roles of mental control, using the White Bear Suppression Inventory (Wegner & Zanakos, 1994), and schizotypy (Raine, 1991). Raine's (1991) measure of schizotypy consists of three factors-Cognitive-Perceptual (unusual perceptual experiences and magical thinking), Interpersonal (social anxiety, constriction of affect), and Disorganized (odd behaviors and speech). Lower mental control was associated with difficulty in stopping earworms; both lower mental control and higher schizotypy- particularly the cognitive-perceptual factor-were associated with feeling that the earworm was disrupting daily activities and the selfreported duration of the earworms (Beaman & Williams, 2013). …

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