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The Effects of Music Genres and Gender on Memory Retention

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Psychology
Wordcount: 3246 words Published: 12th Aug 2021

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Background of the Study

Mobile phones, MP3 players, Smart phones and any gadget that plays music instantly is readily available in this generation. People have easy access to music; they can listen to it anytime and anywhere, especially students. Music has now become a part of people’s everyday lives, that’s why some students tend to listen to music even while studying. The types of sound or beat they prefer even vary. Some have a taste for Acoustic, Jazz, Pop, Rap, Blues or even Folk songs. Well, it really depends on a lot of factors like culture, environment, etc. But is listening to music while studying conducive for learning? If so, what genre might best suit students?

Statement of the Problem

Others may find music distracting while studying while some may enjoy it and even play it out loud. If the latter is true, the researchers aim to know which of the music genres is more conducive for retrieving memory.

Objectives of the Study

The goal of this study is to find out if listening to music aids in memory recall or encumbers it because a lot of students nowadays are accustomed to music to the extent of being habituated to it. The researchers’ concern is to know whether it really benefits them.

Specific Objectives:

  1. To find out if listening to music is conducive in studying
  2. To know which music genre is preferable while studying
  3. To learn if gender has an impact in music preference

Hypotheses of the Study

Ho: Music doesn’t have any significant effect on memory retention

Ha: Music has a significant effect on memory retention

Significance of the Study

This study will benefit the students in a way where they will know whether listening to music aids in memory retention or not. If music is beneficial to memory retention, this study will let the students know what type of music is best to listen to while studying.

Operational Definition of Terms

IV1 = Music Genres- different types of music based on the preference of UPDEPP students as surveyed particularly Acoustic, Rock and Country music

IV2 = Gender- refers to a male or a female participant

DV = Memory Retention- measured by the number of words recalled from the stimulus list

Scope and Delimitation

The participants of this study are UPDEPP students coming from all year levels. The music genres that were chosen were based on the poll that the researchers posted on UPDEPP’s official Facebook page. The top 3 genres that UPDEPP students prefer listening to while studying were Acoustic, Rock and Country music. The song chosen by the researchers is Baby Got Back by Sir Mix A Lot. This is constant for all the groups immersed in music, although they vary on genre.

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Review of Related Literature

A person’s working memory last only for a short period of time wherein information can be manipulated. It also has limitations that when exceeded could lead to memory loss. Distraction is one of the hindrances that could affect recall ability. It sways people’s attention leading to loss of information (Gatherway & Alloway, 2007). In the case of the researcher’s study, music is tested if it’s a form of distraction.

There are numerous variables that play an important role when testing the effect of music on memory, e.g. personality, gender, age, situation, temperature or anything under the sun.

Temperature, according to Batra and Garg (2005) study, has an effect on learning and retention. The results showed that high temperature has more impact than low temperature in retention where there’s a minimal memory acquisition on the former and no significant effect on the latter. This is why the researchers will attempt to control the room temperature where the experiment will be conducted.

Another factor that has an effect on learning and memory is socioeconomic status. Although, it first affects neural development which in turn affects brain structure. With that being said, having a low economic status throughout an individual’s lifespan impaired health and cognitive development while having a high economic status has no significant effect (Hackman, Farah, & Meaney, 2011).

However, the researchers focused on the variables music and gender. There are previous studies that tackled the effect of these to memory.

In Mjoen’s (2011) study, listening to classical music that was unfamiliar increased the number of words recalled. It was compared with popular radio music (PRM) and popular radio music played classically (PRMPC). The significant difference of unfamiliar radio music played classically (URMPC) from the other two suggests that listening to unfamiliar classical music is preferable for people who like listening to music while studying. However, this study is not generalizable for people who don’t listen to music while studying because there’s no control group that wasn’t immersed in music while studying.

In line with this, Mammarella et al. stated that listening to classical music significantly increased working memory compared with no music condition or with white noise. This study shows that classical music enhances cognitive performance in healthy older adults. According to the researchers, this is due to the arousal and mood effect produced by music. Moreover, this increase in arousal results to a greater level of attention which can make the learner process more material than without the presence of music. The reason why some types of music are better than others in fostering memory retention is due to rhythm, note sequence or easy acquisition of the melody. Hence, for music to be effective in aiding recall, it must be easily acquired and must not subtract relevant amounts of resources from working memory (Mammarella, Fairfield & Cornoldi, 2007).

On the other hand, a research study that aims to know if music has an effect, negatively or positively to recall ability made used of another variables to compare: words and digits. The recall of these were tested in three conditions; silent, vocal/pop and instrumental. This research showed that music has a detrimental effect on recalling words than digits. In the silent condition, there was no significant difference between the number of recalled words and digits. There was also no significant difference with the recall ability of men and women (Jameson, 2013)

There are numerous studies regarding how external stimuli, such as music, affect our memory.

A study in the University of Central Florida done by Cassidy et al. also shows that students listening to music while studying has a negative influence on recalling materials and may even create false memories on the topic. After conducting the experiment, results show that there was an increase in error when the participants studied while listening to music (Cassidy, Wright, Garth & Qureshi, n.d.).

In the case of Tammewar’s study, he hypothesized that people will have a hard time memorizing while listening to rap or heavy metal and that it would be easier to memorize with the presence of Baroque music because it is soft and less distracting. However, his hypothesis was not supported because it was found out from the research that the highest average percentage was seen in the metal group with 38% remembrance. According to Tammewar, the reason is that while a person tries to memorize heavy metal music, he/she tries harder to block out external distractions, therefore could concentrate more. Another possible reason why the hypothesis was not supported, according to him, was due to individual differences specifically the participant’s taste in music (Tammewar, 2009).

As opposed to Tammewar’s findings, Gold and Lee’s (2004) study showed that the highest dissonance impaired the ability to recall words during the test while the low and medium dissonance didn’t yield a statistically significant effect on the participants’ ability to recall words. This states that listening to hard core music is not advisable to students trying to study.

Harmon and Sandberg’s (2005) study about the effects of popular music on memorization tasks didn’t yield their expected result that music impairs memorization and recall instead they came up with an unexpected finding that women recalled more words than men in the no-music condition which is opposed to Jameson’s findings that gender has no effect on memory recall. These are the four conditions that didn’t have a significant difference on memory recall: no music while studying and being tested, with music for both situations, no music while studying and with music while being tested, and with music while studying and without music while being tested. This means that with or without music, the participants recalled almost the same number of words.

A different independent variable was used by Thompson and Mutic (2013). They investigated if being an extrovert or an introvert has an effect in memory recall in different listening conditions: silence, pop, classical. As a result, there was no significant difference in the word recall ability when there’s background music present and when there’s none for both types of personality. Nevertheless, extroverts tend to recall more words than introverts with pop and classical music playing in the background. In support to Harmon and Sandberg’s findings, females recalled more words than males during silence and when classical music is playing.

Gustavson et al. states that auditory conditions in which the memory test was taken has no effect on either memory performance or level of arousal. In the experiment, participants were told to memorize and recall word lists under 3 conditions: listening to instrumental hip-hop song, hip-hop song with vocals and no music at all. Skin conductance, heart rate and respiratory rate during all trials were also measured to monitor the physiological state of individuals during the tests. Results showed that there is no statistical significance among these different conditions and that the efficacy of a person’s short-term memory is not affected by music or lyrics (Gustavson, Hanneken, Moldysz & Simon, nd).

Another research hypothesis: studying in a silent environment is the most conducive to verbal working memory, was not supported by the results. Here, the participants were asked to study and recall word lists in the presence of background music and noise. The factors (background music and noise) didn’t have a significant effect on their performance but after the study, participants reported that they found the music distracting while studying (Eiras & McNeil, 2010).

Each variable aforementioned plays a vital role on memory recall. It is important to take note of the individual differences that because it can cause contradicting results and findings.



3×2 factorial design; independent sample


The researchers will post sign-up sheets for UPDEPP students who are interested to participate in the experiment.


There will be a total of 64 participants, each level having a total of 16. Participants are from UPDEPP, coming from all year levels.


Stimulus list (Appendix)

The researchers made a list of 2-syllable words which will be used to measure the memory retention of the participants. The stimulus list was pre-tested and validated by an expert to avoid floor and ceiling effect.


Phase 1

To determine what music genres to use, the researchers posted a poll on the official page of UPDEPP about what genres they prefer among acoustic, country, dance, jazz, rock, R&B, rap, heavy metal, reggae and rock. A week was allotted for them to vote and the top 3 music genres that the researchers will use for the experiment are acoustic, rock and country. The song that the researchers impulsively chose is “Baby Got Back” by Sir Mix A Lot. This song will be constant for every genre to avoid third-variable problem, e.g. lyrics because this study aims to compare the effect of genres. This will make the study more standardized.

Phase 2

The researchers will make a poster that could catch students’ attention and interest to sign up for the experiment. The sign-up sheet consists of their name, gender, age, and contact number so that the researchers could set a schedule depending on their availability. This will be posted for a week.

Phase 3

After getting participants from the sign-up sheet and assigning them to groups, the experiment will then be conducted. The researchers will start by briefing the students regarding the study. But of course, deception would be used and the real objective won’t be mentioned to avoid placebo effect. After that, an informed consent would be given to the participants for them to be aware of the ethical standards and the benefits that they could get from the study. The experiment consists of 4 groups: the control group, acoustic group, rock group and country group. For the control group, the stimulus list will be given and they’ll have a minute to memorize without music. While for the acoustic, rock and country group, the participants also have a minute to memorize the list of words given with acoustic, rock and country respectively as their background music. Two minutes will then be set for the participants to recall and write the words on a piece of paper. After collecting their papers, the researchers will debrief the participants to clear things up and to answer their questions for closure. In addition to this, they will also be given incentives and freebies. The researchers after will check their papers and tally their scores using data analysis particularly a 3×2 ANOVA using independent samples. And lastly, the researchers will get the results and draw conclusions.

Data Analysis

A 3×2 ANOVA with independent sample will be used by the researchers for the results of the experiment.

Extraneous Variables

Third-variable problems could arise in the experiment; however the researchers will do something to address these. First of which is the room temperature. The researchers will make sure to have proper and equal ventilation for each group. Regarding the white noise, they will make sure that this noise will be blocked. The researchers will also make sure that the participants have eaten adequate amount of food because their energy could affect their working memory. And lastly, the researchers will make the environment or the ambiance accommodating to sustain the interest of the participants because this could affect their mood.


Batra, P. & Garg, R. (2005). Effect of temperature on memory. Journal of the Indian Academy of Applied

Psychology, 31(1-2), 43-48. Retrieved from http://medind.nic.in/jak/t05/i1/jakt05i1p43.pdf

Cassidy, C., Wright, C., Garth, K., & Qureshi, E. (n. d). The influence of music on short-term memory.

Retrieved from mmlab.cos.ucf.edu/wp-content/uploads/2012/02/music-and-memory-presentation-APS-3.pdf

Eiras, A. & McNeil, K. (2010). The effects of background music and noise on verbal working memory.

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