Why do songs remind us of other things

By M.Farouk Radwan, MSc.

How everything is connected

Why do we remember certain memories when we hear certain songs?
Why do some songs remind us of some people?
And why do songs put us in certain moods?

It's not just about music for i am pretty sure you noticed that so many things can suddenly remind you of other things. You can see a person and then remember a friend of yours, you can see a certain scene then remember another place or you can smell a perfume and then remember many other events.

The answer to all of those questions is directly related to how our memories work. When we try to recall something from our memories we don't just recall that thing but we also recall all similar things that are connected to that thing.

Try to think of anything right now and shortly you will find yourself thinking about something else that is somehow connected to it. This is also another reason why negative thinking can quickly escalate until you end up with a serious bad mood. See also The snowball effect

Why do songs remind us of other things

Think of your memory as a very large mesh of interconnected items that are somehow related to each other. When you learn any new thing your brain sorts it in your memory by comparing it to the other things that you already have in your memory.

This is why everything that we experience is a relative experience to what we have seen before. A tough day is considered tough only because it's more tough than the tough days you have seen before. This is also why some people get impressed by everything while some people hardly get impressed by anything.

The more experiences a person has been through the less likely it is for them to get impressed easily. See also Why we get bored.

Now back to the song example. When you listen to a new song your brain doesn't just store the song's data but it stores the song data along with everything else that is taking place while you were listening to the song.

If you kept listening to this song throughout a certain phase in your life then probably this song will get associated with this certain phase in your brain.

Now later on when you listen to this song your brain will dig up all the associations related to that song and so you might start to remember other things as well. See Why we like certain music and songs.

How to have positive thoughts

As you keep learning and experiencing new things new associations keep forming in your brain. It's almost impossible to remember one single thing without remembering many of the other things that are related to it.

And in such a case you won't just remember events but you will remember places, people, emotions, thoughts and almost everything that is connected with the initial item you tried to recall.

This also explains why bad moods can lead to more bad moods. Once you start thinking about one bad thing you will shortly end up remembering every bad thing that happened to you in your life.

The opposite is also true. Find a good starting point and you will probably end up having good positive thoughts.

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