Graduation Year


Date of Submission


Document Type

Campus Only Senior Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts


W.M. Keck Science Department

Reader 1

Alison Harris

Reader 2

Catherine Reed

Rights Information

2021 Anisha S Advani


In pop music, catchiness is often linked to commercial success; songs that listeners report getting stuck in their heads also tend to dominate the charts. This phenomenon of “involuntary musical imagery” (INMI), defined as the spontaneous recall and repetition of a musical phrase within the mind, has attracted growing interest in psychology as a means of exploring cognitive processes underlying audition and memory. Yet, the neural correlates of INMI remain relatively unexplored with most studies to date focused on how the likelihood of INMI correlates with intramusical and extramusical factors. Here we propose a set of experiments to examine how brain activity is shaped by listening to music with high INMI potential, and the effects of familiarity and repetition. Specifically, these experiments will measure electroencephalography (EEG) in response to 30-second “hooks” from high and low INMI songs using inter-subject correlation (ISC). Experiment 1 of this study will characterize the degree of ISC for pop songs previously rated as high and low in INMI, in both familiar (“Pop”) and unfamiliar (“K-pop”) musical genres. We predict both INMI potential and familiarity will be associated with higher ISC, reflecting a shared neural response to memorable elements of the songs. In Experiment 2, we will examine how ISC for pop songs is affected by repetition. We hypothesize pop songs higher in INMI will show less reduction in ISC over repeated exposure. Together, these studies suggest a unique approach to isolate the neural correlates of INMI with potential real-world applications to marketing, films, and music.

This thesis is restricted to the Claremont Colleges current faculty, students, and staff.