Listening to music is a common pastime amongst many people, more so for students and younger people who
listen to music while they are studying. This raises the question, does listening to music aid your memory and if
so, what genre is the most effective. It has been tested that music is a pleasurable experience which increases
dopamine levels in the brain can help the brain respond to reward based incentives and this could help the
brain remember and recollect information. On the other hand, it has also been suggested that music is harmful
to memory as it separates the brains focus onto different tasks, a problem less prevalent with people who are
musically trained as they have experience working with music in the background when they’re are learning a
song for example, as they will be focusing on individual aspects and ignoring the rest of the song There is also
a theory known as the “Mozart Effect” which does not necessarily target memory, but has been tested to show
results of improved spatial reasoning in subjects while listening to Mozart’s music in comparison to silence and
other forms of music, meaning there may be evidence to suggest classical music may be the best genre of
music when producing better memory.
The research that was undertook when designing to actual test, in which subjects will have a minute to
memorise as many words from a list and then another minute to write down as many as they can, showed that
the average human’s short term memory can memorise seven words for around fifteen seconds up until one
minute. However, due to the nature of the experiment and the subject knowing they will be required to recall the
information, the working memory will also be a factor, as it will be used to try and resist distraction and retain
the information, meaning a lager list of twenty words is necessary to provide a challenge where any beneficial
or detrimental effect from the music can be observed.
It is also important to make sure the word lists are randomised to maintain fairness between subjects and each
test as well as having words of the same difficulty, so each word is assigned a number value based on its
length, each list will have a total of 50 points across twenty words.
3. PLANNING LOG
Several steps went into the creation of this experiment, the first of which was the background
research into the investigation. This research helped me create the idea for the experiment
and ensured that the right genres of music were used based on pre-existing information about
the music’s helpfulness in memory and recollection. This research also gave a solid
foundation for the hypothesis that classical music would be the most effective for memory
and recollection. This research also looked into developing the word lists that the subjects
would memorise and helped develop a points system which would ensure the fairness of all
the lists between tests.
The independent variable in this experiment is the genre of music being played during the
time in which the subject is memorising and recalling the words in the test. The dependent
variable will be the amount of points the subject scores based on the amount of words
recalled and the difficulty of the words that were recalled. Other variables are controlled, as
the subjects are all male and are sixteen years of age, eliminating any variations based in age
and gender. All subjects will listen to the same songs in each genre category and will listen to
the same section of the song at the same volume in the same environment with no one else
present, ensuring all controlled variables are constant.
The experimental control in this test will be each subject performing the test with one minute
to memorise and then one minute to recall in silence with no music playing. This will be used
as the standard for that subjects tests and any improvements or reductions in score while
listening to a certain genre of music will be compared to the control test. This control test is
done without the independent variable and so should be used to reflect a normal score for
that particular person.
4. PLANNING LOG
There are few risks to take into account when undertaking this experiment, as it
involves very little physical input from the subject or anything around the subject;
however the risks that are associated have been dealt with thoroughly and properly to
avoid permanent injury. The major risk is hearing damage while listening to the music,
which will be played from a loudspeaker one metre away from the subject to simulate a
speaker in the room of a student who is studying. This is considered to be in close
proximity, and so all music will be played at a volume lower than 75 decibels, well below
the volume at which hearing loss starts to occur. This is equivalent to being in a slightly
louder than normal conversation which takes part at around 60 decibels.
The reliability and validity of this test was ensured in multiple ways. Reliability was
ensured by having the same tests with the different genres of music being retested with
multiple subjects, narrowing the margin of error and nullifying discrepancies between
individuals memory ability. The validity was ensured as the results will be quantitative
data which can be compared to other number data of the control to determine
improvements in memory based on genre of music. It is done using established
memory tests that have been used in other experiments and will yield similar results to
similar experiments that tested the effect of a particular genre of music, for example
classical, and has proven that music does have an effect on memory.
To determine the effect of music on recollection and memory and to distinguish the most beneficial and most
detrimental genres of music on memory and recollection.
My hypothesis is that music will have an overall beneficial result on memory compared to no music and that
classical will be the most effective for increasing memory and recollection in comparison to the other genres.
As discovered in the background research, hearing loss can occur when in close proximity to a volume greater
than 85 decibels, and volume under 75 decibels is safe so all music being played will be kept at around 60
decibels, equivalent to that of a normal conversation. All equipment, including paper and pen, will be handled
by one person as to reduce the chance of any accidents.
1. A word list was randomly selected and placed face down in front of the subject. On instruction,
this was turned face up and a timer was started, the subject allowed one minute to memorise the words.
2. After one minute, the word list was removed and the subject sat for thirty seconds.
3. At the end of thirty seconds, another timer was started and the subject was instructed to recall as
many words in writing on the provided paper.
4. After one minute, the paper was marked and the score calculated and recoded in a table. This was
then repeated six more times, each time with a different genre of music being played in the background.
5. After the first subject completed all seven tests, this was repeated with five other subjects.
The independent variable was the genre of music being played for the duration of the
memory test. This in turn affected the dependent variable which was the end score
based on the length, amount and difficulty of the words that were remembered. The
controlled variables included age; all subjects were 16 years old, gender; all subjects
were male, musical training; all subjects have received at least basic, environment;
every test was performed in the same area, with the same speakers at the same volume
with same two minutes and thirty seconds of the same song for each genre.
Validity and Reliability:
To ensure the hypothesis was tested in a valid scientific manner, the test was only
based upon the different types of music, as it was the independent variable and the only
thing that changed. There was no tangent test performed on any similar ideas based
around the differing genres, such as whether musically trained people are affected more
than others when testing memory and recollection. To ensure the test was actually
completed by myself and other subjects, photographs were taken before the tests
began and at random intervals during the tests. Reliability was ensured by the multiple
subjects performing the tests with the same exact sections of song for each genre. The
words on the word list were randomised and the word lists were randomised and all
added up to a total score of 50, ensuring no genre had “easier” or “harder” word lists.
All volumes were kept at the same level and the tests were undertaken in the same
place for each subject.
Genres ranked in order of highest average score
1. Classical (45.83)
2. Electronic (39.33)
3. Rock (36.17)
4. Control/No Music (31.83)
5. Pop (31.5)
6. Rap (30.83)
7. Metal (28.5)
It is unclear from the data that whether music is beneficial to memory as
half of the average scores with music are below that of the control and
half of the average scores with music are above the score of the control
test, meaning music is not necessarily beneficial as suggested in the
hypothesis, however classical music is the most beneficial as was
predicted in the hypothesis.
This experiment was not overly difficult, as it could be managed by
myself holding a timer and turning on music through an IPod, however
it was extremely time consuming, even with the relatively small sample
size of subjects that I had. Each test took two and a half minutes to do
by itself, the word list had to be chosen randomly beforehand for each
test and the score had to be manually calculated after each test,
meaning one person doing one test as their control, for example, took
closer to five minutes and this had to be done seven times for six
people. A better way to do this if the experiment were to be repeated
would be have multiple tests going on at the same time, meaning you
could test a larger group in the same amount of time, depending on how
many of tests you were capable of running simultaneously. Another
improvement would be a larger group of subjects, not only to make the
average score more accurate and get a better result of what genre of
music is most beneficial for memory, but also to reduce the difference
in people with better memories than others. From my experiment, it is
quite clear that some people, particularly subject 5 and 6 had far better
memory than the others, both of them scoring perfect 50 out of 50’s in
one genre each and this affected the averages.
From the data, some very interesting relations can be made
about listening to music in real world situation. The situation
I was trying to simulate the most with this experiment was of
a student listening to music while studying, an activity that
involves the memory and recollection ability greatly. As the
research I conducted suggested, Classical music,
particularly Mozart, was the most effective at helping the
memory, however this is most likely not the type of music a
high school student would be listening to, and so it is a good
thing that Rock and Electronic music are more beneficial
than no music, as these two are very popular genres. On the
other hand, however, Pop and Rap are on the lower end of
the scale along with Metal and are actually detrimental to
memory, meaning a lot of students will be listening to music
that is not good for their memory.