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Evaluating the Consistency and Thematic Content of Music-Induced Visual Mental Imagery

Evaluating the Consistency and Thematic Content of Music-Induced Visual Mental Imagery

Presenter Name:Sarah Hashim

School/Affiliation:Goldsmiths, University of London, UK

Co-Authors:Mats B. Küssner, Lauren Stewart, Diana Omigie


There has been a resurgence in research into visual mental imagery (VMI) during music listening (Taruffi & Küssner, 2019). VMI refers to the experience of a mental image formed in the absence of an external stimulus. Very little is currently known about the content of music-induced VMI (Küssner & Eerola, 2019), and how consistent it is across listening situations. Our study aimed to examine the thematic content of music-induced VMI descriptions, and the extent to which such content is consistent within and across participants.

In an online survey (repeated three weeks later), 353 participants listened to three short musical excerpts conveying happy, tender and fearful emotions (Eerola & Vuoskoski, 2011), and described the content of their VMI in response to the excerpts. Using a thematic analysis approach (Braun & Clarke, 2006), two coders independently appointed lower level codes, compared/grouped these codes to form higher level categories, then developed higher order themes. Finally, to allow consistency to be calculated based on common terms across reports, a systematic labelling system was formulated by allocating numeric labels to each code.

Our analysis revealed four higher order themes: Storytelling, Associations, Non-Visual Experiences, and Music, as well as several related lower level themes. Our large sample size, which allowed us to provide a comprehensive insight into what participants may imagine under different musical contexts, revealed high consistency across participants. Next steps include computing within-person consistency across the two surveys. These findings will contribute to our knowledge of the factors and musical features influencing music-induced VMI.



Braun, V., & Clarke, V. (2006). Using thematic analysis in psychology. Qualitative Research in Psychology, 3(2), 77–101.

Eerola, T., & Vuoskoski, J. K. (2011). A comparison of the discrete and dimensional models of emotion in music. Psychology of Music, 39(1), 18–49.

Küssner, M. B., & Eerola, T. (2019). The content and functions of vivid and soothing visual imagery during music listening: Findings from a survey study. Psychomusicology: Music, Mind, and Brain, 29(2–3), 90–99.

Taruffi, L., & Küssner, M. B. (2019). A review of music-evoked visual mental imagery: Conceptual issues, relation to emotion, and functional outcome. Psychomusicology: Music, Mind, and Brain, 29(2–3), 62–74.

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