Is Memory for Music Special?

Walter van den Broek
April 20, 2010

Unfortunately not. After reviewing the literature the author of the review: Is Memory for Music Special, hesitantly had to admit that memory for music is not special. Popular music is not better remembered than other kinds of stimuli learned in young adult hood. Setting text or lists to music is not a better way to remember them. Music is not a better Mnemonic device. Music is not processed differently from other kinds of stimuli and as such is not better remembered than language processing or visual cues. Memory theories can be applied to both musical stimuli and nonmusical stimuli.

However,music does facilitate semantic memory in patients with dementia and in healthy older adults and this effect, although small in magnitude, is not limited to familiar melodies.

The author nevertheless keeps to his idea of memory for music being different since music differs from other stimuli. Music lying between stimuli with fixed concrete meaning and nonsense stimuli. Music is not meaningless, it communicates emotions and ideas although in an abstract, symbolic way. Music also has a structure but this structure is very different from other stimuli such as the structure of a poem. He’s probably right, who doesn’t have experiences as finding the right place, name or location when listening to music connected to that symbol. Who did not have the experience of listening to music and recollecting emotions or visual stimuli from past occasions when listening to the same music?

I think he is right after all, time will tell, what do you think?

ResearchBlogging.org
Schulkind, M. (2009). Is Memory for Music Special? Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, 1169 (1), 216-224 DOI: 10.1111/j.1749-6632.2009.04546.x

 

6 Responses to “Is Memory for Music Special?”

  1. Well, I’d say one reason to think that music is stored and recalled differently is the fact that some (many?) aphasia patients unable to form coherent, meaningful sentences, and many stutterers have far less trouble singing than speaking. Perhaps something about storing and recalling something with intense feature-binding as opposed to “simple” speech?

  2. Mike on April 20th, 2010 at 12:29 pm
  3. Maybe he’s missing something…because I am constantly in awe at how my memory cannot remember why I just went into the kitchen, but as soon as I hear a familiar piece of music (even if it is a piece I have not listened to in years, or only knew in my childhood)…I can sing along and know the words years later.

    Not sure if the t.v. show “Happy Days” ever played in your part of the world…but one of the characters on the show decided to learn all his school work to music so he would remember answers for the exams…my friends and I all thought this was the best idea so we tried it…but soon gave up, either because it didn’t work, or at 13 we just became distracted by something more exciting:>)
    …aqua

  4. aqua on April 20th, 2010 at 8:58 pm
  5. I suspect that any mnemonic device or associative method could work extremely well if the particular person has very strong skills in the area.

    So, for example, if there is a musician with very strong musical memory skills, they might possibly use their musical memory to link with a non-musical memory task.

    A person with less aptitude for music or musical memory would be much less likely to benefit from using music to link non-musical memories. Most people appreciate music but do not have the depth of experience or mastery to understand and rapidly memorize musical patterns. Therefore, attempting to link a non-musical memory task with music could pose an extra memory burden to many people, rather than be facilitative.

    I use a variety of over-learned numerical methods as memory links; but similarly, I think such methods would not be useful for someone who does not have a lot of experience or aptitude with numbers.

  6. GK on April 22nd, 2010 at 11:04 pm
  7. Your right, they didn’t correct for memory preferences. Some people like music, are susceptible to music and some just don’t like music or are not susceptible to music in all it’s effects on human emotions and probably memory. Thnx kind regards Dr Shock

  8. Dr Shock on April 23rd, 2010 at 6:57 pm
  9. We’ve seen happy days here, it’s was a hit back than. Used rto study with music on never seemed to bother me, but using it as a mnemonic? Never tried it yet, take care Dr Shock

  10. Dr Shock on April 23rd, 2010 at 6:59 pm
  11. As an attorney I am always looking for sites to add to my arsenal to help me do research and yours will undoubtedly be of assistance. Thank you!

  12. Joshua Mckneely on October 9th, 2010 at 12:20 am
  1. Well, I’d say one reason to think that music is stored and recalled differently is the fact that some (many?) aphasia patients unable to form coherent, meaningful sentences, and many stutterers have far less trouble singing than speaking. Perhaps something about storing and recalling something with intense feature-binding as opposed to “simple” speech?

  2. Mike on April 20th, 2010 at 12:29 pm
  3. Maybe he’s missing something…because I am constantly in awe at how my memory cannot remember why I just went into the kitchen, but as soon as I hear a familiar piece of music (even if it is a piece I have not listened to in years, or only knew in my childhood)…I can sing along and know the words years later.

    Not sure if the t.v. show “Happy Days” ever played in your part of the world…but one of the characters on the show decided to learn all his school work to music so he would remember answers for the exams…my friends and I all thought this was the best idea so we tried it…but soon gave up, either because it didn’t work, or at 13 we just became distracted by something more exciting:>)
    …aqua

  4. aqua on April 20th, 2010 at 8:58 pm
  5. I suspect that any mnemonic device or associative method could work extremely well if the particular person has very strong skills in the area.

    So, for example, if there is a musician with very strong musical memory skills, they might possibly use their musical memory to link with a non-musical memory task.

    A person with less aptitude for music or musical memory would be much less likely to benefit from using music to link non-musical memories. Most people appreciate music but do not have the depth of experience or mastery to understand and rapidly memorize musical patterns. Therefore, attempting to link a non-musical memory task with music could pose an extra memory burden to many people, rather than be facilitative.

    I use a variety of over-learned numerical methods as memory links; but similarly, I think such methods would not be useful for someone who does not have a lot of experience or aptitude with numbers.

  6. GK on April 22nd, 2010 at 11:04 pm
  7. Your right, they didn’t correct for memory preferences. Some people like music, are susceptible to music and some just don’t like music or are not susceptible to music in all it’s effects on human emotions and probably memory. Thnx kind regards Dr Shock

  8. Dr Shock on April 23rd, 2010 at 6:57 pm
  9. We’ve seen happy days here, it’s was a hit back than. Used rto study with music on never seemed to bother me, but using it as a mnemonic? Never tried it yet, take care Dr Shock

  10. Dr Shock on April 23rd, 2010 at 6:59 pm
  11. As an attorney I am always looking for sites to add to my arsenal to help me do research and yours will undoubtedly be of assistance. Thank you!

  12. Joshua Mckneely on October 9th, 2010 at 12:20 am
  1. Well, I’d say one reason to think that music is stored and recalled differently is the fact that some (many?) aphasia patients unable to form coherent, meaningful sentences, and many stutterers have far less trouble singing than speaking. Perhaps something about storing and recalling something with intense feature-binding as opposed to “simple” speech?

  2. Mike on April 20th, 2010 at 12:29 pm
  3. Maybe he’s missing something…because I am constantly in awe at how my memory cannot remember why I just went into the kitchen, but as soon as I hear a familiar piece of music (even if it is a piece I have not listened to in years, or only knew in my childhood)…I can sing along and know the words years later.

    Not sure if the t.v. show “Happy Days” ever played in your part of the world…but one of the characters on the show decided to learn all his school work to music so he would remember answers for the exams…my friends and I all thought this was the best idea so we tried it…but soon gave up, either because it didn’t work, or at 13 we just became distracted by something more exciting:>)
    …aqua

  4. aqua on April 20th, 2010 at 8:58 pm
  5. I suspect that any mnemonic device or associative method could work extremely well if the particular person has very strong skills in the area.

    So, for example, if there is a musician with very strong musical memory skills, they might possibly use their musical memory to link with a non-musical memory task.

    A person with less aptitude for music or musical memory would be much less likely to benefit from using music to link non-musical memories. Most people appreciate music but do not have the depth of experience or mastery to understand and rapidly memorize musical patterns. Therefore, attempting to link a non-musical memory task with music could pose an extra memory burden to many people, rather than be facilitative.

    I use a variety of over-learned numerical methods as memory links; but similarly, I think such methods would not be useful for someone who does not have a lot of experience or aptitude with numbers.

  6. GK on April 22nd, 2010 at 11:04 pm
  7. Your right, they didn’t correct for memory preferences. Some people like music, are susceptible to music and some just don’t like music or are not susceptible to music in all it’s effects on human emotions and probably memory. Thnx kind regards Dr Shock

  8. Dr Shock on April 23rd, 2010 at 6:57 pm
  9. We’ve seen happy days here, it’s was a hit back than. Used rto study with music on never seemed to bother me, but using it as a mnemonic? Never tried it yet, take care Dr Shock

  10. Dr Shock on April 23rd, 2010 at 6:59 pm
  11. As an attorney I am always looking for sites to add to my arsenal to help me do research and yours will undoubtedly be of assistance. Thank you!

  12. Joshua Mckneely on October 9th, 2010 at 12:20 am
  1. Well, I’d say one reason to think that music is stored and recalled differently is the fact that some (many?) aphasia patients unable to form coherent, meaningful sentences, and many stutterers have far less trouble singing than speaking. Perhaps something about storing and recalling something with intense feature-binding as opposed to “simple” speech?

  2. Mike on April 20th, 2010 at 12:29 pm
  3. Maybe he’s missing something…because I am constantly in awe at how my memory cannot remember why I just went into the kitchen, but as soon as I hear a familiar piece of music (even if it is a piece I have not listened to in years, or only knew in my childhood)…I can sing along and know the words years later.

    Not sure if the t.v. show “Happy Days” ever played in your part of the world…but one of the characters on the show decided to learn all his school work to music so he would remember answers for the exams…my friends and I all thought this was the best idea so we tried it…but soon gave up, either because it didn’t work, or at 13 we just became distracted by something more exciting:>)
    …aqua

  4. aqua on April 20th, 2010 at 8:58 pm
  5. I suspect that any mnemonic device or associative method could work extremely well if the particular person has very strong skills in the area.

    So, for example, if there is a musician with very strong musical memory skills, they might possibly use their musical memory to link with a non-musical memory task.

    A person with less aptitude for music or musical memory would be much less likely to benefit from using music to link non-musical memories. Most people appreciate music but do not have the depth of experience or mastery to understand and rapidly memorize musical patterns. Therefore, attempting to link a non-musical memory task with music could pose an extra memory burden to many people, rather than be facilitative.

    I use a variety of over-learned numerical methods as memory links; but similarly, I think such methods would not be useful for someone who does not have a lot of experience or aptitude with numbers.

  6. GK on April 22nd, 2010 at 11:04 pm
  7. Your right, they didn’t correct for memory preferences. Some people like music, are susceptible to music and some just don’t like music or are not susceptible to music in all it’s effects on human emotions and probably memory. Thnx kind regards Dr Shock

  8. Dr Shock on April 23rd, 2010 at 6:57 pm
  9. We’ve seen happy days here, it’s was a hit back than. Used rto study with music on never seemed to bother me, but using it as a mnemonic? Never tried it yet, take care Dr Shock

  10. Dr Shock on April 23rd, 2010 at 6:59 pm
  11. As an attorney I am always looking for sites to add to my arsenal to help me do research and yours will undoubtedly be of assistance. Thank you!

  12. Joshua Mckneely on October 9th, 2010 at 12:20 am
  1. Well, I’d say one reason to think that music is stored and recalled differently is the fact that some (many?) aphasia patients unable to form coherent, meaningful sentences, and many stutterers have far less trouble singing than speaking. Perhaps something about storing and recalling something with intense feature-binding as opposed to “simple” speech?

  2. Mike on April 20th, 2010 at 12:29 pm
  3. Maybe he’s missing something…because I am constantly in awe at how my memory cannot remember why I just went into the kitchen, but as soon as I hear a familiar piece of music (even if it is a piece I have not listened to in years, or only knew in my childhood)…I can sing along and know the words years later.

    Not sure if the t.v. show “Happy Days” ever played in your part of the world…but one of the characters on the show decided to learn all his school work to music so he would remember answers for the exams…my friends and I all thought this was the best idea so we tried it…but soon gave up, either because it didn’t work, or at 13 we just became distracted by something more exciting:>)
    …aqua

  4. aqua on April 20th, 2010 at 8:58 pm
  5. I suspect that any mnemonic device or associative method could work extremely well if the particular person has very strong skills in the area.

    So, for example, if there is a musician with very strong musical memory skills, they might possibly use their musical memory to link with a non-musical memory task.

    A person with less aptitude for music or musical memory would be much less likely to benefit from using music to link non-musical memories. Most people appreciate music but do not have the depth of experience or mastery to understand and rapidly memorize musical patterns. Therefore, attempting to link a non-musical memory task with music could pose an extra memory burden to many people, rather than be facilitative.

    I use a variety of over-learned numerical methods as memory links; but similarly, I think such methods would not be useful for someone who does not have a lot of experience or aptitude with numbers.

  6. GK on April 22nd, 2010 at 11:04 pm
  7. Your right, they didn’t correct for memory preferences. Some people like music, are susceptible to music and some just don’t like music or are not susceptible to music in all it’s effects on human emotions and probably memory. Thnx kind regards Dr Shock

  8. Dr Shock on April 23rd, 2010 at 6:57 pm
  9. We’ve seen happy days here, it’s was a hit back than. Used rto study with music on never seemed to bother me, but using it as a mnemonic? Never tried it yet, take care Dr Shock

  10. Dr Shock on April 23rd, 2010 at 6:59 pm
  11. As an attorney I am always looking for sites to add to my arsenal to help me do research and yours will undoubtedly be of assistance. Thank you!

  12. Joshua Mckneely on October 9th, 2010 at 12:20 am
  1. Well, I’d say one reason to think that music is stored and recalled differently is the fact that some (many?) aphasia patients unable to form coherent, meaningful sentences, and many stutterers have far less trouble singing than speaking. Perhaps something about storing and recalling something with intense feature-binding as opposed to “simple” speech?

  2. Mike on April 20th, 2010 at 12:29 pm
  3. Maybe he’s missing something…because I am constantly in awe at how my memory cannot remember why I just went into the kitchen, but as soon as I hear a familiar piece of music (even if it is a piece I have not listened to in years, or only knew in my childhood)…I can sing along and know the words years later.

    Not sure if the t.v. show “Happy Days” ever played in your part of the world…but one of the characters on the show decided to learn all his school work to music so he would remember answers for the exams…my friends and I all thought this was the best idea so we tried it…but soon gave up, either because it didn’t work, or at 13 we just became distracted by something more exciting:>)
    …aqua

  4. aqua on April 20th, 2010 at 8:58 pm
  5. I suspect that any mnemonic device or associative method could work extremely well if the particular person has very strong skills in the area.

    So, for example, if there is a musician with very strong musical memory skills, they might possibly use their musical memory to link with a non-musical memory task.

    A person with less aptitude for music or musical memory would be much less likely to benefit from using music to link non-musical memories. Most people appreciate music but do not have the depth of experience or mastery to understand and rapidly memorize musical patterns. Therefore, attempting to link a non-musical memory task with music could pose an extra memory burden to many people, rather than be facilitative.

    I use a variety of over-learned numerical methods as memory links; but similarly, I think such methods would not be useful for someone who does not have a lot of experience or aptitude with numbers.

  6. GK on April 22nd, 2010 at 11:04 pm
  7. Your right, they didn’t correct for memory preferences. Some people like music, are susceptible to music and some just don’t like music or are not susceptible to music in all it’s effects on human emotions and probably memory. Thnx kind regards Dr Shock

  8. Dr Shock on April 23rd, 2010 at 6:57 pm
  9. We’ve seen happy days here, it’s was a hit back than. Used rto study with music on never seemed to bother me, but using it as a mnemonic? Never tried it yet, take care Dr Shock

  10. Dr Shock on April 23rd, 2010 at 6:59 pm
  11. As an attorney I am always looking for sites to add to my arsenal to help me do research and yours will undoubtedly be of assistance. Thank you!

  12. Joshua Mckneely on October 9th, 2010 at 12:20 am

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