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Re: working memory and melody

Dear list members:

Somewhat related to the current discussion, but leading to a separate question, is an informal observation I have made over a number of years. I am an avid music listener and listen to classical music practically every morning and evening. Classical music requires full attention to be appreciated properly. However, because the listening takes up a lot of time, I have often tried to combine it with other activities. I soon found out that reading, even of the most trivial text, is totally disruptive. I feel I have not heard the music at all while I was reading-a very disheartening experience. Before the advent of personal computers, I used to score data or draw graphs while listening. That was less distracting but still interfered a bit. Lately, I have become addicted to Sudoku. I find that solving Sudoku puzzles does not really interfere with music listening at all, even though I frequently need to keep lists of up to five digits in verbal working memory.

I would be interested to learn about any references to research (or any informal comments) that might address why reading interferes so strongly with music listening but Sudoku doesn't. Although there is some research on the effect of music on reading (though probably not on Sudoku), I am not aware of any research that investigated how different secondary tasks interfere with music listening. One problem is surely to find an objective and quantifiable measure of how effective the music listening was.


Bruno H. Repp
Haskins Laboratories
300 George Street
New Haven, CT 06511-6624
Tel. (203) 865-6163, ext. 236
Fax (203) 865-8963

NOTE: I am at Rutgers University, Newark, two days per week,
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