Psychonomic Bulletin & Review

, Volume 24, Issue 6, pp 1964–1970 | Cite as

Maintenance of memory for melodies: Articulation or attentional refreshing?

  • Michael A. Nees
  • Ellen Corrini
  • Peri Leong
  • Joanna Harris
Brief Report


Past research on the effects of articulatory suppression on working memory for nonverbal sounds has been characterized by discrepant findings, which suggests that multiple mechanisms may be involved in the rehearsal of nonverbal sounds. In two experiments we examined the potential roles of two theoretical mechanisms of verbal working memory—articulatory rehearsal and attentional refreshing—in the maintenance of memory for short melodies. In both experiments, participants performed a same–different melody comparison task. During an 8-s retention interval, interference tasks were introduced to suppress articulatory rehearsal, attentional refreshing, or both. In Experiment 1, only the conditions that featured articulatory suppression resulted in worse memory performance than in a control condition, and the suppression of both attentional refreshing and articulatory rehearsal concurrently did not impair memory more than articulatory suppression alone. Experiment 2 reproduced these findings and also confirmed that the locus of interference was articulatory and not auditory (i.e., the interference was not attributable to the sound of participants’ own voices during articulatory suppression). Both experiments suggested that articulatory rehearsal played a role in the maintenance of melodies in memory, whereas attentional refreshing did not. We discuss potential theoretical implications regarding the mechanisms used for the rehearsal of nonverbal sounds in working memory.


Music cognition Sound recognition Short-term memory Working memory Attention 


  1. Baddeley, A. D. (2012). Working memory: Theories, models, and controversies. Annual Review of Psychology, 63, 1–29. doi: 10.1146/annurev-psych-120710-100422 CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  2. Baddeley, A. D., Lewis, V., & Vallar, G. (1984). Exploring the articulatory loop. Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, 36A, 233–252. doi: 10.1080/14640748408402157 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Berz, W. L. (1995). Working memory in music: A theoretical model. Music Perception, 12, 353–364. doi: 10.2307/40286188 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Brodsky, W., Kessler, Y., Rubinstein, B.-S., Ginsborg, J., & Henik, A. (2008). The mental representation of music notation: Notational audiation. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, 34, 427–445. doi: 10.1037/0096-1523.34.2.427 PubMedGoogle Scholar
  5. Camos, V. (2015). Storing verbal information in working memory. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 24, 440–445.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Camos, V., Lagner, P., & Barrouillet, P. (2009). Two maintenance mechanisms of verbal information in working memory. Journal of Memory and Language, 61, 457–469.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Koelsch, S., Schulze, K., Sammler, D., Fritz, T., Müller, K., & Gruber, O. (2009). Functional architecture of verbal and tonal working memory: An fMRI study. Human Brain Mapping, 30, 859–873.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  8. Li, D., Cowan, N., & Saults, J. S. (2013). Estimating working memory capacity for lists of nonverbal sounds. Attention, Perception & Psychophysics, 75, 145–160. doi: 10.3758/s13414-012-0383-z CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Logie, R. H., & Edworthy, J. (1986). Shared mechanisms in the processing of verbal and musical material. In D. G. Russell, D. Marks, & J. Richardson (Eds.), Imagery 2 (pp. 33–37). Dunedin: Human Performance.Google Scholar
  10. Macken, W. J., & Jones, D. M. (1995). Functional characteristics of the inner voice and the inner ear: Single or double agency? Journal of Experimental Psychology Learning Memory and Cognition, 21, 436–448. doi: 10.1037/0278-7393.21.2.436 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. McKeown, D., Mills, R., & Mercer, T. (2011). Comparisons of complex sounds across extended retention intervals survives reading aloud. Perception, 40, 1193–1205. doi: 10.1068/p6988 CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  12. Naveh-Benjamin, M., & Jonides, J. (1984). Maintenance rehearsal: A two-component analysis. Journal of Experimental Psychology Learning Memory and Cognition, 10, 369–385. doi: 10.1037/0278-7393.10.3.369 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Navon, D., & Gopher, D. (1979). On the economy of the human-processing system. Psychological Review, 86, 214–255. doi: 10.1037/0033-295X.86.3.214 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Pechmann, T., & Mohr, G. (1992). Interference in memory for tonal pitch: Implications for a working-memory model. Memory & Cognition, 20, 314–320. doi: 10.3758/BF03199668 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Raye, C. L., Johnson, M. K., Mitchell, K. J., Greene, E. J., & Johnson, M. R. (2007). Refreshing: A minimal executive function. Cortex, 43, 135–145.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  16. Salame, P., & Baddeley, A. D. (1987). Noise, unattended speech, and short-term memory. Ergonomics, 30, 1185–1194.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  17. Schendel, Z. A., & Palmer, C. (2007). Suppression effects on musical and verbal memory. Memory & Cognition, 35, 640–650.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Siedenburg, K., & McAdams, S. (2017). The role of long-term familiarity and attentional maintenance in short-term memory for timbre. Memory, 25, 550–564. doi: 10.1080/09658211.2016.1197945 PubMedGoogle Scholar
  19. Smith, J. D., Wilson, M., & Reisberg, D. (1995). The role of subvocalization in auditory imagery. Neuropsychologia, 33, 1433–1454.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  20. Soemer, A., & Saito, S. (2015). Maintenance of auditory-nonverbal information in working memory. Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, 22, 1777–1783. doi: 10.3758/s13423-015-0854-z CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Stanislaw, H., & Todorov, N. (1999). Calculation of signal detection theory measures. Behavior Research Methods, Instruments, & Computers, 31, 137–149. doi: 10.3758/BF03207704 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Wickens, C. D. (2002). Multiple resources and performance prediction. Theoretical Issues in Ergonomics Science, 3, 159–177. doi: 10.1080/14639220210123806 CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Psychonomic Society, Inc. 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Michael A. Nees
    • 1
  • Ellen Corrini
    • 1
  • Peri Leong
    • 1
  • Joanna Harris
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyLafayette CollegeEastonUSA

Personalised recommendations