8 Sep 2008

Beatles hits bring back happy memories

10:16 pm on 8 September 2008

They may have been written more than four decades ago, but hit songs by the Beatles can still trigger powerful memories for their fans.

New research by Leeds University shows that thousands of people are able to recall where they were and what they were doing when they first heard some of the band's biggest hits.

When asked about what they associated with Beatles songs, memories of first kisses, summer nights and even funerals came flooding back for the 3,000 respondents from 69 countries who took part in the study.

The researchers invited people to recount a memory that relates to the Beatles. Participants were told to think of the first thing that came to mind - a vivid memory relating to a particular album, song, news story or even a band member.

The study found that the recounted memories are almost always positive, that people remember particular episodes very vividly - sounds, smells and sights of the memory were often recounted.

She Loves You sparked the most memories followed by I Saw Her Standing There, Imagine and In My Life.

"We are so impressed with how vividly people could recall memories sometimes from more than 40 years ago, especially when many eloquent and vivid memories appear to have been little recalled in decades," Leeds University psychologist Dr Catriona Morrison told Britain's The Daily Telegraph.

"This shows the power of music in shaping and reliving sometimes long-neglected memories. We had anticipated that women might have more emotional memories but this has not been substantiated by the data. This again emphasises the universality of the Beatles as a force in people's lives."

Whether certain types of music (or certain songs) can act as better aids for remembering the past remains unclear.

But in a world where the United Nations predicts that by 2010, one in five people will be over 60, and failing memory is likely to become an important challenge for society, more rigorous research into the link between music and memory is much needed, researchers say.

The study is ongoing, and people can add their Beatles-related memory by visiting www.magicalmemorytour.com.