The Famous Melodies Stimulus Set


Famous musical melodies, such as “Row, Row, Row Your Boat” and “Hot Cross Buns,” are frequently used in psychological research. Such melodies have been used to assess the degree of cognitive impairments in various neurological disorders, and to investigate differences between “naming” vs. “knowing.” Despite their utility as an experimental stimulus, there is currently no standardized, openly available set of famous musical melodies based on a United States population, as prior work on the topic has primarily relied on creating stimuli in an ad hoc manner. Therefore, the goal of the present work was to create a set of famous musical melodies. Here, we describe the development of the Famous Melodies Stimulus Set, a set of 107 melodies. We provide normative data for the melodies on five dimensions: familiarity, age of acquisition, emotional valence, emotional arousal, and naming ability. Participants (N = 397) rated the melodies on these five variables, validating that most melodies were highly familiar and reliably named. While familiarity ratings were skewed, all other rating scales covered a relatively broad range, allowing for researchers to select melodies for future work based on particular attributes.


Psychological Science

Research Center/Lab(s)

Intelligent Systems Center


This work was supported by funding from the University of Missouri Research Board.

Keywords and Phrases

Arousal; Familiarity; Music; Naming; Valence

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

1554-351X; 1554-3528

Document Type

Article - Journal

Document Version


File Type





© 2020 Psychonomic Society, Inc, All rights reserved.

Publication Date

17 Jun 2020