Student Research Projects

Relationship between Word List Memorization and Familiar and Unfamiliar Music

Student Taylor Doughtie, '16
Faculty Mentor(s)
Department Psychology
Course Psychology 480: Originial Research Project


This study investigates if music and familiarity aid in the recall of word lists for younger and older participants. It was predicted that younger participants would remember more words, that familiar lyrics would enhance memory, and that memory enhancement would be greatest for older participants. Sixty-one participants in total completed this study. Of those, 41 participants were residents from Marian Manor, Autumn Care of Suffolk, and Lake Prince Woods who were either diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease or another type of dementia or were cognitively healthy at the time of the study. The rest of the 20 participants were a comparison group of Virginia Wesleyan students. Participants were asked to memorize two lists of words, one at a time, in silence or while listening to music. Participants were then asked to recall as many words as possible. One of the word lists contained lyrics from the familiar song “Take Me Out to the Ballgame,” and the second word list contained lyrics from an original song composed for the study. Results from the study show that younger participants remembered more words than the older participants, that familiarity with the song had little significance, and that the elderly population did not benefit more from the music memory enhancement than the younger population.


Virginia Wesleyan Undergraduate Research Grant for Research, 2015-16.