Effects of Visual and Aural Presentation Styles and Rhythm on Working Memory as Measured by Monosyllabic Sequential Digit Recall

Michael J. Silverman, Sonia W. Bourdaghs, Edward T. Schwartzberg

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Although information is frequently paired with music to enhance recall, there is a lack of basic research investigating how aspects of recorded music, as well as how it is presented, facilitate working memory. Therefore, the purpose of this study was to determine the effects of visual and aural presentation styles, rhythm, and participant major on working memory as measured by sequential monosyllabic digit recall performance. We isolated visual and aural presentation styles and rhythm conditions during six different treatment stimuli presented on a computer screen in the study: (a) Visual Rhythm; (b) Visual No Rhythm; (c) Aural Rhythm; (d) Aural No Rhythm; (e) Visual + Aural Rhythm; (f) Visual + Aural No Rhythm. Participants’ (N = 60; 30 nonmusic majors and 30 music majors) task was to immediately recall the information paired with music within each condition. Analyses of variance indicated a significant difference between the visual and visual + aural presentation style conditions with the visual + aural condition having more accurate recall. While descriptive data indicated that rhythm tended to facilitate recall, there was no significant difference between rhythm and no rhythm conditions. Nonmusic major participants tended to have slightly more accurate recall than music major participants, although this difference was not significant. Participants tended to have higher recall accuracy during primacy and recency serial positions. As participants had most accurate recall during the visual + aural presentation style conditions, it seems that the multi-sensory presentation modes can be effective for teaching information to be immediately recalled as long as they do not contain too much information and overload the limited storage capacity of working memory. Implications for clinical practice, limitations, and suggestions for future research are provided.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1282-1297
Number of pages16
JournalPsychological reports
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jun 15 2020

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© The Author(s) 2020.


  • Aural and visual presentation style
  • music memory
  • recall
  • rhythm
  • working memory

PubMed: MeSH publication types

  • Journal Article


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