Working memory for musical and verbal material under conditions of irrelevant sound
Baddeley and Hitch's (1974) working memory model concerns the storage and processing of information in the short term. The present research suggests possible changes to the model because the model does not account for the storage and processing of music. Previous studies have found evidence that musical memory should not be considered part of the phonological loop, which stores language information, and that it may require a separate loop altogether. This assertion has been tested by examining the size of the irrelevant sound effect across modalities through the new visual-auditory recognition method. Previous research has found that irrelevant sound in the form of tones only disrupts memory for tones, whereas irrelevant sound in the form of speech only disrupts memory for letters. This modality-specific interference effect suggests that processing of musical and verbal material occurs in separate stores. Although previous studies have introduced the irrelevant sound for the duration of the trial, the present study separated the placement of the irrelevant sound to occur 1) simultaneously with the visual sequence and 2) during the retention interval only, in order to rule out encoding or masking effects that might have confounded previous findings. Though none of the results was statistically significant, patterns in memory scores indicated a modality-specific effect in the letters condition and a general distraction effect in the tones condition. Further work is needed to make more definite conclusions about the nature of memory for musical material.
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