Academic journal article Psychomusicology

Abstracts of Doctoral Theses Related to Psychomusicology

Academic journal article Psychomusicology

Abstracts of Doctoral Theses Related to Psychomusicology

Article excerpt

Melody and Lyrics in Working Memory: Interference Due to Automatic Activation

Jack Douglas Birchfield

Doctoral Dissertation, 2011, Behavioral and Brain Sciences, University of Texas at Dallas. E-mail:

Supervised by James C. Bartlett

To better understand the relationship of melody and lyrics in memory, three experiments examined whether a familiar melody can act as a cue that automatically activates its associated lyrics. In the first experiment, participants attempted to remember digit sequences while hearing one of five categories of auditory distractors: vocalized songs (VL), highly or less familiar vocal songs presented without their lyrics (NVL-H and NVL-L), instrumental songs, or white noise. The central prediction was that hearing NVL-H melodies would activate their lyrics, thus interfering with rehearsal and retention of the digit sequences and leading to poorer recall performance compared with hearing purely instrumental music. In Experiment 2, participants were required to silently articulate the digit sequences to ensure adherence to the rehearsal task. In Experiment 3, spoken song lyrics were presented before each trial to make the familiar tunes easier to identify. Results across the three experiments failed to demonstrate support for the prediction of automatic activation. Post hoc grouping of participants by musical expertise failed to demonstrate reliable differences in the pattern of performance between groups with more or less musical training. Although this project failed to support the concept of automatic activation, it did establish that performance in the white noise condition was better than in each of the other conditions, supporting the idea that music, whether vocal, nonvocal, or instrumental, creates disruption in a serial recall task. Further research is needed to determine whether this musical interference to recall performance might be associated with some type of phonological activation or attentional disruption resulting from recognition. Additionally, the VL condition demonstrated robust interference across experiments, which offers compelling support for the theory that irrelevant speech, here in the form of lyrics, interferes with rehearsal and retention of serial information.

Crosslinguistic Perception of Pitch in Language and Music

Evan D. Bradley

Doctoral Dissertation, 2013, Department of Linguistics and Cognitive Science, University of Delaware. E-mail: This dissertation was funded in part by the National Science Foundation (BCS-1156289).

Supervised by Jeffrey Heinz and Irene Vogel

This dissertation investigates how experience with lexical tone influences perception of musical melody, and how musical training influences perception of lexical tone. The theoretical basis for the study is Reverse Hierarchy Theory, in which cognitive processes tune neural resources to provide necessary sensory information; tuned sensory resources become available to other cognitive processes, which rely on the same perceptual properties. Tone properties height, direction, and slope are argued to correspond to melodic properties key, contour, and interval, respectively, and this correspondence is predicted to underlie crossover between lexical tone and melody perception.

Three questions were investigated:

1. Are differences in melody perception between and among tone and nontone language speakers related to properties of languages' tonal inventories?

2. Is melody perception affected by second-language tone experience?

3. Does musical ear-training enhance lexical tone perception?

Tone language (Mandarin, Yoruba) speakers outperformed nontone (English) in melody discrimination, but only on properties argued to link tone and melody. Tone groups did not perform identically, suggesting the effects are language-specific. Mandarin learners did not perform similarly to native speakers, but further study with more proficient speakers is necessary. …

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