Stability and Accuracy of Long-Term Memory for Musical Pitch

Alyce Hay, Craig P. Speelman


Existing research gives an inconsistent picture of the nature of the cognitive processes underlying memory for musical information. A study was conducted to investigate the stability and accuracy of long-term memory for pitch amongst individuals who have not had musical training. Excerpts from well-known pop songs were used as stimuli. Participants heard one long sequence of excerpts, each of which had been raised or lowered in pitch by one semitone, or left unaltered. After hearing each excerpt, participants were asked to detect whether it was different from the original version of the song they remembered. Participants were significantly worse at detecting whether the pitch of an excerpt had been changed when the altered excerpt was preceded by an unaltered excerpt or vice-versa, than when they heard two consecutive unaltered excerpts. This suggests that pitch memory is subject to interference from previously presented pitch information.


Music, Pitch, Memory, Interference

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