Irrelevant sound interference on phonological and tonal working memory in musicians and nonmusicians

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Abstract

Background: Working memory refers to the cognitive system responsible for the temporary storage and maintenance of information, but it remains controversial whether overlapping processes underlie the temporary retention of verbal and musical information such as words and tones. Methods: Participants with little or no musical training (n = 22) and professional musicians (n = 21) were administered four memory tasks. Two tasks (tone sequence recognition and pseudoword sequence recall) aimed at comparing groups’ performance for tonal or phonological material separately. Other two memory tasks investigated pseudoword and tone recognition under three conditions during the retention interval (silence, irrelevant words, or irrelevant tones). Results: Musicians were better than nonmusicians in tone sequence recognition but not in pseudoword sequence recall. There were no interference effects of irrelevant tones or words on pseudoword recognition, and only irrelevant tones significantly interfered with tone recognition. Conclusions: Our results offer further support that tone recognition is specifically impaired by irrelevant tones, but irrelevant words did not disrupt pseudoword or tone recognition. Although these results do not reflect a double-dissociation pattern between phonological and tonal working memory, they provide evidence that temporary retention of tonal information is subject to specific tonal interference, indicating that working memory for tones involves specific processes.

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Defilippi, A. C. N., Garcia, R. B., & Galera, C. (2019). Irrelevant sound interference on phonological and tonal working memory in musicians and nonmusicians. Psicologia: Reflexao e Critica, 32(1). https://doi.org/10.1186/s41155-018-0114-z

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