The effect of paired pitch, rhythm, and speech on working memory as measured by sequential digit recall

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Educational and therapeutic objectives are often paired with music to facilitate the recall of Information. The purpose of this study was to isolate and determine the effect of paired pitch, rhythm, and speech on undergraduate's memory as measured by sequential digit recall performance. Participants (N = 120) listened to 4 completely counterbalanced treatment conditions each consisting of 9 randomized monosyllabic digits paired with speech, pitch, rhythm, and the combination of pitch and rhythm. No statistically significant learning or order effects were found across the 4 trials. A 3-way repeated-measures ANOVA indicated a statistically significant difference in digit recall performance across treatment conditions, positions, groups, and treatment by position. No other comparisons resulted in statistically significant differences. Participants were able to recall digits from the rhythm condition most accurately while recalling digits from the speech and pitch only conditions the least accurately. Consistent with previous research, the music major participants scored significantly higher than non-music major participants and the main effect associated with serial position indicated that recall performance was best during primacy and recency positions. Analyses indicated an interaction between serial position and treatment condition, also a result consistent with previous research. The results of this study suggest that pairing information with rhythm can facilitate recall but pairing information with pitch or the combination of pitch and rhythm may not enhance recall more than speech when participants listen to an unfamiliar musical selection only once. Implications for practice in therapy and education are made as well as suggestions for future research.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)415-427
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Music Therapy
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 2007

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