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Music Role in Memory and Learning Processes Research Paper


Music plays an integral role in society, owing to the positive, neutral, and negative emotions it evokes among different individuals. As such, music has the potential of evoking particular memories of experiences that are meaningful to an individual. Since memory is essential in enhancing an individual’s intellect, the integration of music technology in educational environments has the capability of enhancing the efficiency of learning experiences. Such incorporation of music in class may improve the capacity of learners to memorize what has already been taught to them. In this respect, different scholars have undertaken studies that seek to unearth the link between music and memory. The findings will help to find out whether the above claim concerning the link between music and memory holds true. This paper provides a summary of a few articles that address the influence of music on memory and learning.

Sex Differences by Palmiero and Colleagues (2016)

Palmiero, Nori, Rogolino, D’amico, and Piccardi (2016) authored the article “Sex differences in visuospatial and navigational working memory: The role of mood induced by background music”, which seeks to investigate the effects of music on men and women concerning their ability to remember. As such, the study purposed to test the differences in visuospatial abilities between men and women bearing in mind that the former is perceived to demonstrate greater memory capabilities compared to the latter As such, Palmiero et al. (2016) sought to base the visuospatial and navigational abilities of both genders by injecting the influence of background music. The study considered the influence of background music on the mood of both men and women.

The research study considered the use of a sample population that was comprised of at least 144 participants involving an equal number of randomly sampled men and women. Palmiero et al. (2016) administered positive, negative, and neutral music to equal proportions of the sampled population. The inquiry team applied tests, including the Corsi Block-tapping Task (CBT) and Walking Corsi (WalCT). The collection of data involved providing the relevant information, which could be transferred to a Positive and Negative Affect Schedule prior to and once the visuospatial chores are undertaken.

Firstly, Palmiero et al. (2016) found out that background music influenced a positive change, thereby denoting the positive effect of mood on visuospatial capabilities. However, the authors realized no effect of mood induction or sex on the negative change of the sample population. As such, the positive music category realized a greater effect compared to the negative and neutral categories. Moreover, the CBT advancement state saw males do better compared to females, as well as in the WalCT frontward and diffident form. The findings underline that emotional variations have no influence on the visuospatial and navigational differences between men and women. Thus, the varying spatial competencies between the two sexes explain their CBT and WalCT differences better compared to mood contexts.

The Use of Emotionally Arousing Music by Carr and Rickard (2016)

In an article titled “The use of emotionally arousing music to enhance memory of subsequently presented images”, Carr and Rickard (2016) provide an insightful approach to understanding the role of music in fostering the cognition of images. As such, Carr and Rickard (2016) sought to investigate the extent to which emotional music contributes to strengthening the memory of an individual. Undoubtedly, the music evokes emotionally strong responses that could be useful in assessing the neurological-biological ideal of emotion-enhanced memory. For this reason, the authors aimed at testing the influence of music-elicited emotions in remembering particular images presented to them in subsequent instances.

Carr and Rickard (2016) integrated a within-subjects design to investigate their research question on a sample population of 37 participants between the ages of 18 and 50 years. The authors offered three groups of music for the participants. First, the participants selected the music they enjoy the most. Second, the participants chose for their fellow participants two self-rated music tracks. Third, the authors administered five-minute interview audio. The participants memorized a distinctive range of 24 images after every music episode. Carr and Rickard (2016) observed the physiological emotional and subjective arousal evoked by the music after the presentation of different images, as well as the ability of participants to recall the images.

The results reveal that the enjoyed music of preference triggered considerable physiological and subjective differences in line with emotion and the presentation of detailed images. Notably, the recall of detailed images among the participants increased as the participants listened to more episodes of their self-selected music tracks they enjoy most. The episodes involving listening to radio interviews yielded poor recall scores of the images presented to the participants subsequently. The analysis done by Carr and Rickard (2016) unearthed that changes in physiology in line with emotions elicited by music, which was enjoyed by the participant, facilitated the prediction of memory.

This is Your Song by Michels-Ratliff and Ennis (2016)

Music has the potential of eliciting nostalgia, as well as evoking the memory of nostalgic experiences in one’s life. In this respect, Michels-Ratliff and Ennis (2016) authored the article “This is your song: Using participants’ music selections to evoke nostalgia and autobiographical memories efficiently.” The scholars purposefully sought to determine whether playing popular music to an individual they were familiar with from the past triggered nostalgia in the present besides reminding them of key autobiographical events (Michels-Ratliff & Ennis, 2016). Further, the study aimed at integrating an advanced approach to the assessment of individual preferences of the participants capable of triggering autobiographical memories and nostalgia.

Michels-Ratliff and Ennis (2016) used a sample population of 175 undergraduate students majoring in psychology. The participants identified three songs they consider nostalgic on the Pandora, an Internet music website, before adding seven more songs they considered to fit the category, thereby creating their “station.” The new approach aimed at exploring the influence of the targeted participant in making their contributions toward identifying popular songs consistent with nostalgic and autobiographical experiences.

The study saw an increase of songs that were rated moderately high or very high in terms of eliciting nostalgia since the figures rose from 26% to 59% of the songs on the Pandora website. Further, the participants identified 72% of the songs on the Internet music site as associated with evoking autobiographical memories. The recorded increase from the 29% mark was realized through the integration of the traditional method. As such, the Internet platforms realized greater output in terms of determining the participants’ rating of songs associated with triggering nostalgia and autobiographical reminiscences. Nonetheless, the identification of songs with the mentioned emotions and memories depends on several aspects of the song, including its autobiographical salience, familiarity, meaningfulness, the evoked positive or negative effect, arousing capabilities, and the number of likes. Therefore, it is evident that individuals associate certain popular music tracks with eliciting autobiographical recollections and nostalgia.

Music Training and Semantic Clustering by Hogan and Huesman (2008)

The article “Music training and semantic clustering in college students” authored by Hogan and Huesman (2008) contribute to fostering an understanding of the extent to which music training reinforces an individual’s memory over time. The scholars aim at exploring how music training reinforces student’s verbal memory by considering the elements of memory span capacity, serial clustering, and semantic recollection through the application of a digit span test. As such, the study also aimed at assessing the influence of taking music lessons over a given period on the ability to remember words on a 16-item list.

Hogan and Huesman (2008) conducted two experiments after applying non-probability sampling methods. The first experiment involved 107 participants whereas the second one constituted 123 participants, in both cases undergraduate students. In the first experiment, the study applied the recall strategy to investigate verbal memory. In this experiment, the facilitator read words from a 16-item list at the rate of 2 seconds per word before instructing the participants to note the words they recall within a timeframe of 1.5 minutes. The study was administered three times to test the participants. The second experiment entailed the incorporation of a Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale that applied a digit-span test with forwarding and backward capabilities. The forward test required the participants to record on a sheet what they could recall from the 16-item words pronounced at intervals of 1 second. The backward test read the participant’s words from the 16-item list before requesting them to record the words they could remember within a short timeframe. The authors carried the two tests in a discontinuous manner.

The studies carried out by Hogan and Huesman (2008) confirm that, indeed, there is a positive correlation between music training and a profound recall of verbal stimuli. As such, college students with at least five years of music training have a greater word recall capability compared to those who undergone music training for 0-4 years. Further, the tests reveal that the superior recall of the college students who receive extensive training depicts strength in applying semantic-clustering strategies. Moreover, music training and the language of an individual demonstrate similar implications on the creation of verbal memory.

Music and Music Technology in College Teaching by Berk (2008)

Technological advancements affect the development of music considerably. The development of music technology makes its integration in learning engagements one of its notable applications in contemporary settings. In a bid to uncover the link between music technology and learning, Berk (2008) authored the article “Music and music technology in college teaching: Classical to hip hop across the curriculum.” Berk (2008) aims at describing the integration of music technology to enhance the learning processes in institutions of higher education. As such, the scholar sought to underscore the relevance of integrating music in teaching.

Berk (2008) used teachers whereby each was required to select music from various fronts, including published sources and websites, identification from the students’ music world, and conducting student surveys. After the selection, the teacher could apply any of the 12 generic techniques of incorporating music technology in learning endeavors. The learning techniques include the prelude to class, class opening tune-ups, special occasion blockbusters, topic introductions, content grabbers, introductions to class demonstrations, and collaborative learning productions. Other techniques consisted of class activity interludes, class breakers, test reviews with games, post review pep rally, and posttests pick-me-ups.

Berk’s (2008) results reveal that music technology fosters the realization of at least 20 learning outcomes in teaching. The outcomes range from grabbing students’ attention to lowering tension and anxiety associated with scary topics. Further, music is one of the core intelligence in an individual’s brain. As such, reinforcing it with technology is vital in enhancing intellectual growth and development (Berk, 2008). College students usually have the tools of the trade, including smartphones, MP3 players, and other digital gadgets that have the capacity to play music. As such, teachers could integrate technological devices such as MP3 and CD players in the classroom setting to play music consistent with the learning topics. The students’ attributes and the vulgarity of the music constitute the two criteria for consideration when selecting music in learning environments. The different types of music evoke effects such as emotions and visual imagery that facilitate the recall of different learning experiences.


Indeed, music has a considerable influence on one’s memory and learning processes. Music fosters visuospatial and navigational working memory in both men and women. Further, background music enhances individuals’ recall of different images presented to them subsequently. Additionally, popular music played randomly to people influences them to recall autobiographical memories besides creating nostalgia. Furthermore, music training reinforces visual and verbal memory. Therefore, the integration of music technology in higher learning environments would be integral in bolstering intellectual development.


Berk, R. A. (2008). Music and music technology in college teaching: Classical to hip-hop across the curriculum. International Journal of Technology in Teaching and Learning, 4(1), 45-67.

Carr, S. M., & Rickard, N. S. (2016). The use of emotionally arousing music to enhance memory for subsequently presented images. Psychology of Music, 44(5), 1145-1157.

Hogan, D. E., & Huesman, T. (2008). Music training and semantic clustering in college students. The Journal of Genetic Psychology, 169(4), 322-331.

Michels-Ratliff, E., & Ennis, M. (2016). This is your song: Using participants’ music selections to evoke nostalgia and autobiographical memories efficiently. Psychomusicology: Music, Mind, and Brain, 26(4), 379-384.

Palmiero, M., Nori, R., Rogolino, C., D’amico, S., & Piccardi, L. (2016). Sex differences in visuospatial and navigational working memory: The role of mood induced by background music. Experimental Brain Research, 234(8), 2381-2389.

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IvyPanda. (2020) 'Music Role in Memory and Learning Processes'. 15 September.

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