Music and Memory

3.9 based on 21 ratings

Updated on Feb 08, 2012

Grade Level: 6th - 8th; Type: Cognitive Science


Create an experiment that tests the correlation between listening to music and memorization. The goals of this project are:

  1. To determine whether or not music affects short-term memory.
  2. To explore the possibilities of musical applications to the learning process.

Research Questions:

  • Can listening to music while studying affect test results?
  • Why do we remember song lyrics better than we remember written poems?
  • What are the practical applications of music in learning and education?

Music is believed to have beneficial effects on cognitive functioning. However, most evidence in support of this theory is purely anecdotal. This project is designed to study the effect of music on random rote memory.


  • Computer with Internet access
  • Color printer
  • Digital camera
  • Typical office/hobby/hardware/craft supplies (paper, poster board, glue, etc.).
  • 20 or more volunteers

All necessary materials can be found in or around your home, at local stores, or on ebay.

Experimental Procedure:

  1. Read overview of relevant topics (see bibliography below and terms listed above)
  2. Address all of the above terms and research questions.
  3. Search and print out interesting images relevant to your topic.
  4. Take photographs throughout the course of the experiment.
  5. Create a list of 30 randomly chosen words in random order.
  6. Randomly divide the volunteers into two equal groups.
  7. Have Group I study the list for 15 minutes in a quiet room, while listening to instrumental (classical) background music, played at low volume.
  8. Group II studies the list for 15 minutes in a quiet room without background music.
  9. Give each volunteer 10 minutes to write as many list items as he/she can remember.
  10. Compare results from both groups of volunteers.
  11. Carefully record all observations.
  12. Analyze your data.
  13. Interpret your findings in a detailed report.
  14. Include interesting photos, diagrams and models in your science fair display.

Terms/Concepts: Memorization; Mnemonic; Music-related memory; Retention


Judee Shipman is a Bay Area Educational Consultant and professional writer of quality educational materials. Her recent writing credits include (a popular and entertaining website about states), and a book called The Portable Chess Coach (Cardoza, 2006), currently available in stores.

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