Academic journal article Memory & Cognition

Auditory-Motor Learning Influences Auditory Memory for Music

Academic journal article Memory & Cognition

Auditory-Motor Learning Influences Auditory Memory for Music

Article excerpt

Abstract In two experiments, we investigated how auditory- motor learning influences performers' memory for music. Skilled pianists learned novel melodies in four conditions: auditory only (listening), motor only (performing without sound), strongly coupled auditory-motor (normal performance), and weakly coupled auditory-motor (performing along with auditory recordings). Pianists' recognition of the learned melodies was better following auditory-only or auditory- motor (weakly coupled and strongly coupled) learning than following motor-only learning, and better following strongly coupled auditory-motor learning than following auditory-only learning. Auditory and motor imagery abilities modulated the learning effects: Pianists with high auditory imagery scores had better recognition following motor-only learning, suggesting that auditory imagery compensated for missing auditory feedback at the learning stage. Experiment 2 replicated the findings of Experiment 1 with melodies that contained greater variation in acoustic features. Melodies that were slower and less variable in tempo and intensity were remembered better following weakly coupled auditory-motor learning. These findings suggest that motor learning can aid performers' auditory recognition of music beyond auditory learning alone, and that motor learning is influenced by individual abilities in mental imagery and by variation in acoustic features.

Keywords Recognition . Music cognition . Individual differences . Imagery . Sequence learning

People are capable of robust and detailed memory for auditory sequences such as speech and music; speakers can accurately recite long passages of prose from memory, and singers can perform long, complex pieces of music from memory. How do performers remember those auditory sequences? Performers' memory may be encoded in terms of auditory features, motoric features of their productions, or auditory-motor associations that performers have formed. Two lines of research offer predictions for the role of motor learning in auditory memory. One line of research has documented that producing words can improve later recognition of those words (MacLeod, Gopie, Hourihan, Neary, & Ozubko, 2010; Ozubko & MacLeod, 2010). Another line has documented that when performers learn motor tasks, they acquire motor representations that include detailed information about specific sensory outcomes from those actions (Hommel, Müsseler, Aschersleben, & Prinz, 2001; Lahav, Saltzman, & Schlaug, 2007). According to these lines of research, auditory-motor associations acquired while learning to perform may improve later auditory recognition. Here, we compared how motor and auditory learning contribute to auditory memory for music by testing how musicians' recognition memory is influenced by their own experience producing that music. Auditory and motor information can be manipulated independently of one another in music performance with the use of electronic instruments, and therefore music offers a useful domain in which to compare the effects of auditory and motor learning on memory.

Several studies have demonstrated that production experience improves later recognition of written words (Gathercole &Conway, 1988; MacLeod et al., 2010; Ozubko&MacLeod, 2010). MacLeod et al. showed that people better recognized written words that they had spoken aloud or silently mouthed, as compared with words that they had silently read; the authors called this phenomenon the "production effect" (MacLeod et al., 2010). Other studies suggested that the auditory component of vocalization also enhances memory; words were better remembered when they were heard versus when they were silently read at learning (Gathercole & Conway, 1988; MacLeod, 2011). However, spoken words were better remembered than words that were either heard without being produced or silently mouthed (Gathercole & Conway, 1988), suggesting that both auditory and motor experience contribute to later memory of written words. …

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