Associations between Music Training and Memory Skills

  • Kaitlin Ritchie MacEwan University


In the current study, we explored associations between music training and visual memory. Musicians tend to have superior auditory memory, academic achievement, and linguistic abilities compared to non-musicians, but the conclusions regarding visual memory in musicians are not as clear. Unclear findings concerning visual memory in musicians may be a result of the tasks used, as some tasks involve motor or verbal components. We hypothesized that musicians would score higher than non-musicians on visual memory tasks that are more strongly associated with IQ. Moreover, when controlling for IQ, these differences in memory scores should disappear. This would suggest the possibility of pre-existing differences between those who decide to take music lessons and those who do not. Eighty-seven undergraduates were recruited and completed subtests of the Wechsler Memory Scale – Fourth Edition (WMS-IV) and the Wechsler Abbreviated Scale of Intelligence – Second Edition (WASI-II), as well as questionnaires asking about personality traits and extracurricular activities. Results revealed that musicians had significantly better visual working memory even after controlling for IQ, while dancers had better immediate visual memory, which also remained significant after IQ was controlled for. These findings suggest that near transfer of skills might be occurring rather than far transfer. Alternatively, there could be other pre-existing differences that explain the results but were not accounted for.


Faculty Mentor: Kathleen Corrigall

Department: Psychology (Honours)