Natural and Artificial Memory

This topic submitted by Erick Carlson, Kara Love, Adam Brute ( ) on 10/9/03 .
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Natural Systems 1 Syllabus---Western Program---Miami University

The question that our group seeks to answer is under which conditions we learn or "code" the best? Do human beings memorize terms easier with classical music, rock music, or no music? Do they remember natural (i.e. tree, rabbit, red, etc.) or artificial (i.e. car, doorknob, computer, etc.) terms or images easier?

Our hypothesis is that humans will be able to memorize with classical music best, and the easiest types of words to remember are natural words. Our belief is that rock music is too distractive and no music can bring in other distractions. According to the Mozart Effect, classical music helps to modify attentiveness and alertness. It is not over-stimulating, and the structures of the rondo, sonata-allegro form, and variation form are basic ways in which the brain becomes familiar with the development and familiarity of ideas. It is possible that people can learn better with rock music if they are more used to it and helps to “comfort” them. Another possibility is that no music might be the best setting to memorize, because music might possibly be a distraction to the person. We also believe that natural terms are easier to remember because they are more familiar to people. We, as human beings, are natural, and therefore, we are more prone to remember things that are created from the earth.


The intent of this study was to find if rock music or classical music had a positive or negative effect on a person’s memory and whether or not natural or artificial words would be better memorized under these circumstances. Currently there is a lot of research that would support either side of the argument. Some studies support positive effects and some report negative effects of music on performance.
Tucker and Bushman (1991) found that rock and roll music had a detrimental effect on tasks involving mathematical and verbal skills, but it did not have an effect on reading comprehension tasks. Etaugh and Michals (1975) did a lot of work before this on the effects on reading comprehension of popular music and the frequency of which you study to music. When it came to writing with a computer Ransdell and Gilroy (2001) indicated that background music significantly disrupted writing fluency. The participants in that study showed signs of slower writing and decreased writing quality when their writing was accompanied b background music. While these are two examples of negative effects of music on performance, the most famous example talks about music’s positive effects.
The Mozart effect is a term used to explain the claim that listening to Mozart could boost intelligence. (Overy, 1998) Music has been used for centuries to heal the body. Therapists noticed music could help calm anxiety and researchers saw that listening to music could cause a drop in blood pressure (Castleman, 1994 and Westley, 1998). Frances H. Rauscher, Ph.D. then took this a step further by demonstrating the correlation between music and learning in an 1993 experiment. Groups of students were given intelligence tests after listening to silence, relaxation tapes, or Mozart’s Sonata for Two Pianos in D. After silence the average IQ score was 110, and after the relaxation tape scores rose a point. After listening to Mozart, however, the scores jumped to 119 ( Westley, 1998 and Rauscher, 1993) Rausher hypothesized that “listening to complex, non-repetitive music, like Mozart, may stimulate neural pathways that are important in thinking” (Castleman, 1994). Neuroscientists believe that music can strengthen connections between neurons in the cerebral cortex (Sandberg and Harmon). This is a similar process to that which occurs in the brain development of a child. In October of 1997, researchers at the University of Konstanz in Germany found that music actually rewires neural circuits (Begley, 1996).

While there are many staunch supporters of the Mozart effect and numerous websites dedicated to the topic including and Many people find themselves questioning the validity like Michael Linton the author of “The Mozart Effect” (Linton, 1999) and “The Riddle of the Mozart Effect” (Campbell 1998), some found it impossible to recreate the experiment (Steele, 1999). Once again we find websites dedicated to the issue: “The Mozart effect has been discredited by people such as Harvard medical researcher Christopher Chabris”(Trocchi, 1999). Whole websites have even been created to disrepute the Mozart Effect: and
There are differing opinions when it comes to the effects that music has on performance. Yet with all this research there are no answers to the question if rock music or classical music had a positive or negative effect on a person’s memory. And certainly no one has gone as far to say whether natural or artificial words are better memorized under which conditions. Many college students listen to music while doing homework or studying for an exam, in fact I am doing so right now. It makes sense that these students be informed to which type of music is best for studying. The present study attempted to determine


The experiment is going to take a relatively large sample population and test them under several controlled conditions. Several posters will be constructed on standard poster board that contains an equal amount of natural and artificial words on it. These words will be arranged into rows and columns and evenly spaced. This is so that there is no real bias to the experiment and each will be equally represented.
A certain amount of time will be given to each individual, one minute, under no music. Then the individual will be asked to write down as many terms as remembered in the allotted time and asked to write down the terms. The sheet to which the individual wrote the terms will then be analyzed. A tally will be taken as to the number of correct terms remembered that were artificial. Another tally will be kept as to the number of correct natural terms. The same individual will then be allowed several minutes of quiet to get back into normal state of thought.
Next, a new standard poster board with different terms arranged equally across aboard will be presented. The former control, no music, will now be tested against the element of rock music. Now the individual will have another minute to remember as many terms on the board while rock music is playing in the background. The correctly written terms will be tallied onto a separate sheet of paper. After a few more minutes of relaxation; a third standard poster board will be shown to the same individual.
Now the third element that will be tested will be classical music. It too will contain an equal amount of natural and artificial terms. The individual will again be given one minute to remember as many terms as possible and then asked to write them down after the minute. The correctly answered natural and artificial terms will be tallied and recorded. We will repeat these procedures on a certain number of other individuals to get conclusive data. Then the amount of terms that was remembered under classical, rock, and no music will be tallied and analyzed for significant differences. The results will also be analyzed between natural and artificial terms that were remembered.
The first stage of the experiment was to find significant differences between natural, and artificial terms, and between different types of music. The second stage of the test will be to observe the variables of the last stage and expand its categories. For instance, if people remembered natural events over artificial, then the next test is whether images or words stick better in the mind. If music plays a huge role it is assumed that some individuals will recognize certain beats or songs. So we would then make a familiar beat and an unfamiliar beat to test. The second stage is tested the same way as the first. We gather many individuals and test them in the same situations except under the new conditions. The results will again be analyzed to find significant differences.

The amount of terms that was remembered under classical, rock, and no music will be tallied and analyzed for significant differences. The results will also be analyzed between natural and artificial terms that were remembered. There will be graphs and t-tests to examine the significances. Any value that is significant will then put into the stage 2 as described in the methods. The results of that experiment will again be analyzed for significant values. The findings will be further explained in the discussion section.

Our Day:
The experiment will analyze memory in the different environments of music. First, the class will be divided into three groups. Each group will go to a separate area to undergo the experiment. Each division will be given either classical music, rock music, or no music. Each subdivision will contain three different poster boards with artificial and natural words written on them. Then each member within each subdivision will be given a few minutes to remember as many terms as possible. Then each individual will write on a piece of paper as many terms as remembered in a few minutes. Then there will be a few minutes of rest time, and then groups will move to the next station with a different environment. The same steps as above will be repeated. The results will then be tallied and presented to the class.

Before we begin our project, there are several questions we must ask. One question that surfaces is the time of day that we will test our subjects. When completing this project, we have to make sure we do this at around the same time of day. We cannot have subjects tested at scattered times throughout the day, some in the morning or some at night. Another question is from what source will we acquire our words and images? And how many images will we use compared to how many words? We can also ask which words and images will symbolize natural and which words and images will symbolize artificial. Yet another question we must ask is what song or artist will be used for the classical music and what song or artist will be used for rock and roll music.
The major observation that can be made with this project is obviously how many words and images that the person can remember. Another observation that can be made is which words were remembered more- artificial or natural.
There are several possibilities or changes we can possibly make to our methods. One of them is the amount of time we will give our subjects. Another is the order of tests we give to our subjects. We have to make sure that we have the best order, because we have to keep in mind that after each test, the memorization of the person might be harder after each time, or they may lose patience.

1. Begley, Sharon (19 Feb 1996) “Your Child’s Brain” Newsweek Vol. 127:8. pp 54-61.
2. Campbell, Don (11 Jan 1998) “The Riddle of the Mozart Effect” Natural Health Vol. 27:1. pp 114-120.
3. Castleman, Michael and Tina Spangler (Sept 1994) “The Healing Power of Music” Natural Health Vol. 24:5. pp 68-76.
4. Linton, Michael (March 1999) “The Mozart Effect” First Things Vol. 91. pp 110-113.
5. Overy, Katie (1998) “Can Music Really ‘Improve’ the Mind?” Psychology of Music Vol. 26:1. pp 97-99.
6. Westley, Marian and Ted Gideonse (21 Sept 1998) “Music is Good Medicine” Newsweek Vol. 132:12. pp 103-104.
7. Ransdell, S.E., Gilroy, L. (2001). The effects of background music on word processed writing. Journal of Experimental Psychology, 17, 141- 148.
8. Tucker, A., Bushman, B. (1991) Effects of rock and roll music on mathematical, verbal, and reading comprehension performance. Perceptual and Motor Skills, 72, 942.
9. Rauscher, F.H., Shaw, G.L., and Ky, K.N. Music and Spatial Task Performance. Nature, 365: 611, 1993.
10. Steele, K.M., Bass,K.E., and Crook, M.D. The Mystery of the Mozart Effect: Failure to Replicate. Psychological Science, 10:366-369, 1999.
11. Sandberg, Kristin, and Harmon, Sarah. Effects of Popular Music on Memorization Tasks, Music and Memorization, pp 1-12.
12. Etaugh, C., Michals, D. (1975). Effects on Reading Comprehension of Preferred Music and Frequence of Studying to Music. Perceptual and Motor Skills, 41, 553-554.

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