DOI: 10.5176/2251-1865_CBP16.13

Authors:Alvin Keyes

Abstract:The current investigation was designed to address the notion that attention and memory processes are impacted while one listens to music. The central question was if music serves as either a distraction or enhancer of these cognitive processes. Additionally, the investigator was interested in determining if the type of music used while remembering, and its familiarity, probably through it’s culturally links, tend to facilitate the aforementioned cognitive processes more. Given that, it was predicted that collections of sounds and chords that are found to be most familiar and comforting to participants will produce more positive outcomes – in this case, a greater memory for words. Participants in this study consisted of college-aged students from North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University, who were chosen from three introductory psychology courses. The age range was between 18 and 21 years old. Prior to engaging in the memory tasks, participants completed a questionnaire that provided information on their music style preference. Each participant then listened to three types of music as he/she attempted to memorize words from one of three lists. The context of the words was parallel across lists. Using SPSS, a repeated measures analysis of variance was conducted to determine the impact of both music and word list on word memory. It was predicted that music, especially that considered to be most familiar, will indeed serve as a valuable tool for enhancing one’s memory and attentional mechanisms. It was further predicted that, since word type was common across lists, there should be no effect of word list on memory under the music conditions. The results revealed that there was a main effect of music type (p = .023). However, classical music, a music style not considered to be most familiar to this group of participants, was linked with the most pronounced word recall. Instrumental jazz music produced the next positive effect for word memory; while the least amount of words was remembered after students listened to instrumental rap music. There was also a main effect of word list (p = .000) in which most words were remembered for list C. It was concluded that although certain types of music are culturally relevant to individuals, that type of music may not necessarily enhance cognitive performance. For instance, rap music, although presented instrumentally, evoked lyrics that were sub-vocalized by the participants, resulting in interference in language processing – that is, words that were “heard” while the person remembered other terms. Additionally, the complexity of jazz and its imbedded improvisations, may present an abstractness that is difficult to process while remembering even simple nouns. A follow-up study will further address why parallel word lists produced significantly different memory effects, and include each participant’s reported feelings while listening to the various music genres.


Keywords:Memory, Facilitation, Music

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