Musicians have better memories than non-musicians

A new meta-study by the University of Padua in northern Italy has found that musicians have better memories than non-musicians.

The meta-study – a statistical analysis which combines the results of a number of studies – was led by Francesca Talamini from the University’s Department of General Psychology.

“The main goal of my research project”, said Talamini, “is to analyse the relationship between music training and improved working memory abilities, understanding which characteristic of the music training leads to improvements in working memory skills.”

Working memory is often used synonymously with short-term memory, but some believe that working memory involves the processing of the newly stored information against what you already know, whereas short-term memory refers to the short-term storage of the information only.

Twenty-nine studies, conducted between 1987 and 2016, were analysed. The participants were young adults (their mean age was 23) and the numbers tested in any single study ranged from 20 to 140. Fourteen of the tasks they performed focused on long-term memory; 20 on short-term memory; and 19 on working memory.

The researchers found ‘a slight superiority of musicians over non-musicians’ in long-term memory tasks, and a larger one in both short-term and working memory tasks.

Although Talamini and her colleagues can’t pinpoint the exact reason for this, they offer several hypotheses, with the most likely explanation involving ‘the multi-sensorial nature of music training.’

Tom Jacobs, commenting on the research on the Pacific Standard website said: “To put it another way, learning music apparently trains people in the art of “chunking,” or breaking up long streams of information into more manageable (and easier to remember) chunks.”

Arts Professional:
Pacific Standard:
Plos One:
Research Gate:

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