Friday, September 22, 2023

Why we can remember song lyrics from years ago

We republish this article by Kelly Jakubowski, professor of music psychology at Durham University (UK), published in The Conversation on September 8, 2023.

Why do many people not remember where they put their car keys most mornings, but can sing every lyric to a song they haven’t heard in years when it comes on the radio? Do song lyrics occupy a privileged place in our memory?

Music has long been used as a mnemonic method, that is, to help remember words and information. Before the arrival of written language, music was used to orally transmit stories and information. Even today we see many examples of this type in the way we teach children the alphabet, numbers or, in my case, the names of animals. 50 states of the United States.

There are several reasons why music and words seem to be closely linked in memory. First of all, the music features They usually serve as a predictable “matrix” to help us remember the associated letters.

For example, him rhythm and beat of music give clues about the length of the next word in a sequence. This helps narrow down the possible choices of words to remember, for example, indicating that a three-syllable word fits a particular rhythm within the song.

The melody of a song can also help segment a text into meaningful fragments. This allows us to remember longer segments of information than if we had to memorize each word separately. The songs also often use literary devices such as rhyme and alliterationthat They make memorization even easier.

Sing it

When we have sung or listened to a song many times before, it can become accessible through our implicit (non-conscious) memory. Singing the lyrics of a well-known song is a form of memory procedural. That is, it is a highly automated process, like riding a bicycle: It is something we are capable of doing without thinking much about it.

One of the reasons music is so deeply embedded in memory is because we tend to listen to the same songs many, many times. throughout our lives (more, for example, than the times we read our favorite book or watch our favorite movie).

Music is also fundamentally emotional. In fact, research has shown that one of the main reasons people get hooked on music is because of the diversity of emotions it conveys and evokes.

Numerous studies show that Emotional stimuli are remembered better than non-emotional ones. The task of trying to remember the alphabet, the colors of the rainbow either The musical notes It’s intrinsically more motivating when it’s paired with a catchy melody, and we’ll remember concepts better later when we make an emotional connection.

Music and lyrics

It should be noted that not all previous research has found that music facilitates the recall of associated lyrics. For example, the first time we listen to a new song, memorizing both the melody and the associated lyrics is harder than memorizing just the lyrics. This makes sense, given the multiple tasks involved.

However, after overcoming this initial obstacle and exposing yourself to a song several times, more beneficial effects appear. Once you know a melodythe associated letter usually easier to remember What if you try to memorize those lyrics without the music.

Research in this field is also being applied to Help people with various neurodegenerative disorders. For example, music seems to help people with Alzheimer’s and multiple sclerosis to remember verbal information.

So the next time you put your car keys in a new place, try creating a catchy song that reminds you of their location the next day… and, in theory, it shouldn’t be so easy to forget where you put them.

The Conversation


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