This has been bugging me for a while. I use the term liberally when I talk about music, and more often than not I draw blank stares.
It's a simple concept. You hear a tune and associate it with something that's happening in your life at the same time, mostly pleasant. Years later the same tune plays on the radio, and you recognize it, and it brings back all those good memories. Without realizing that it's the memory and not necessarily the tune itself that fills your heart with joy, you come to believe that the tune is great music regardless of its actual artistic value. That's the important point: the tune may be boring and stupid, yet you're still inclined to believe it's great.
This phenomenon is known as "tonal recognition." Is there a better term for it, or at least a term everyone's familiar with?