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External Stimuli Such as Rock Music Has an Effect on Our Short-Term Memory

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An experiment investigating the effect that noise has on memory performance. The subjects who were initially tested were tested to see if a loud noise such as rock music had an effect on their memory performance. This finding shows that noise does have an effect on our memory ability as the control group that studied their subjects in silence had a much better recollection of what was put before them than the experimental group that was subjected to loud rock music during their viewing of the same objects. The Hypothesis is that an external stimulus such as a loud noise can decrease an individual's memory performance.


The aim of this experiment is to see if an external stimuli such as rock music, has an effect on our short-term memory.

Our ability to recall external stimuli is an essential component for functioning in society. We depend on the vividness of our memories for everything that we experience. Even the simplest aspects of our daily lives such as our relationship with others, school performance, and remembering where we parked our car, all of these is dependant on the imprints left in our brain of sensory interpretations. To spare these observations from oblivion we employ certain mnemonic devices, be it conscious or unconscious, to resuscitate the fleeting memory.

Mnemonic devices are crucial in our communication with one another. For instance, to remember a phone number transmitted orally we often recite it several times in our head, a conscious process of regenerating the memory. This breed of mnemonic device is not exclusive to the auditory senses. To remember an image, such as a persons face, we revisualize patterns constructed from an unconscious internal repetition of that particular image. (cited by Turczynewycz 2002)

According to Bellezza (1996), committing information to memory is important in the early stages of learning something new; therefore, it is essential for students to be able to work in an environment conducive to learning.

Banbury, Macken, Tremblay, and Jones (2001) reviewed the body of literature concerning auditory distraction and short-term memory (STM). Studies have shown that recall for series of items is poor whenever irrelevant narrative speech or no speech sounds are played. Irrelevant sounds were especially disruptive when a sequence of changing sounds was played. The most important conclusion of the review seems to be that the effect of irrelevant noise depended on whether or not serration, or remembering items in a particular order, in the memory task was important. Irrelevant sounds tended to greatly disrupt serial recall, but had a minimal effect on free recall.

Not only can music serve as a distraction, but it can also produce anxiety in students facing a cognitive task. Smith and Morris (1977) studied the effects of music on test performance. They used the Digits Backward test to assess performance in participants who were exposed to stimulating music, sedative music or no music.

Music was played as participants acquainted themselves with the numbers in the test. It was found that listening to stimulating music increased emotionality and performance concern among participants who were exposed to stimulating music compared with participants who were exposed to sedative music.

Participants in the stimulating music condition performed the worst. Participants who listened to stimulating music predicted that they would perform poorly on the test. The highest levels of concentration were reported among the no music group.

This study also found that music preference was positively correlated to test performance. All of the participants in the experiment preferred the sedative music to the stimulating music. If participants liked the music, it aided their performance; if they did not like the music, it distracted them, therefore hindering performance. It has been found that music has an influence on mood.

Noise is unwanted or meaningless sound that may distract attention from cues that are important for task performance. Significant background noise may negatively affect performance in a number of ways (see e.g. Smith, 1989). In some cases the noise may directly affect one's ability to perform a task but there are also many ways in which noise can disturb task performance indirectly. For instance noise may disrupt sleep patterns, disturb normal social behavior or increase subjective feelings of stress all of which could ultimately lead to poor performance in cognitive tasks.

Loud background noise (above 90 dBA) typically reduces the quality of performance. A number of studies have demonstrated that noise hinders performance on cognitive tasks involving vigilance, decision-making, and memory (see Broadbent, 1971, Smith, 1989; Salas et al, 1996; Banbury, et al.) However, most of these studies involved artificially generated noises in artificial settings and exposure was usually short-term (i.e., hours not days).

Most people enjoy listening to music; people listen to it as they drive on the roads, when they take a shower, when they go to bed and when they wake up. Music in an important part of some peoples lives. Music can affect us in different ways it can lift our mood and release our stress. The goal of this study was to determine whether noise such as rock music is sufficient to disrupt cognitive performance.


The materials that are being utilized in the testing of this study are 12 objects on a tray and loud rock music for just one of the groups that are being tested. Two groups of five subjects were chosen to participate in this study. The first group being the experimental group, and the second group being the control group. Both groups were shown twelve easily recognizable objects from a tray.

Both groups were given a minute to observe the objects that were on the tray. The task for both the experimental and the control group were to memorise as many items as possible from the tray. The tray was then covered over.

Whilst the experimental group was focusing on their tray of twelve items, loud rock music was being played next to them.

The control



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