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Re: working memory and melody

Title: Re: working memory and melody
I agree. The idea dates back to Broadbent's 'Perception and Communication' (1958) - and a little earlier - which claims that sensory information can only be held in memory for a time period of the order of milliseconds unless it is encoded into verbal form, which enables it to enter  'short term memory' and there be rehearsed sufficiently, via a phonological loop,  to enable it to be transferred, yet again, into 'long term memory'. This idea always ran into problems where musical information is concerned. It's amazing how people who are musically untrained can nevertheless pick out a wrong note in a complex piece - and the idea that this is done in some way via verbal labelling clearly won't work.


Diana Deutsch

The recent comments on this issue (from Deutsch, Demeny and others) are compatible with Margaret Wilson's claim that  ``the phonological loop'' is basically articulatory or motor. See her review article: `The case for sensorimotor coding in working memory' in Psychonomic Bulletin & Review 8 (2001), pp. 44-57.  She concludes that ``only a sensorimotor model can accommodate the broad range of effects that characterize verbal working memory'' and points out that this supports the general viewpoint of embodied cognition.  So what Baddeley called `phonological' is not at all what linguists would call phonological (since they would expect that to mean something completely abstract and devoid of sensory or motor content).
    So the prediction would have to be that the only way the ``phonological loop'' could encode music is if it could be stored as something one could SING! 

Bob Port
Linguistics and Cognitive Science
Indiana University, Bloomington, IN