Degree Year


Document Type


Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts




Patricia deWinstanley
Nancy Darling

Committee Member(s)

Paul Thibodeau


Verbal memory, Foreign language Learning, Speaking, Singing, Composing, Listening, Background music, Psycholinguistics, Language pedagogy, Mnemonic device, Encoding specificity principle, Generation effect, Cognitive load


Many people enjoy listening to music while they study, but others find music distracting. Research about the effect of music on performance during a cognitive task mirrors the equivocal nature of this subjective debate. Across 3 experiments, music, either in the background or as an active encoding device, was found to have no effect on foreign language learning. In Experiment 1, participants studied foreign language vocabulary in silence, while listening to instrumental music, or while listening to music with lyrics. There was no effect of music on recall at immediate (p = .52) or delayed testing (p = .80). Participants in Experiments 2 and 3 listened to and then repeated foreign language phrases by speaking or singing them aloud. No significant differences were found in recall for phrases learned by singing and for phrases learned by speaking (p = .827). Experiment 3 assessed whether using a self-composed melody as a musical mnemonic device was more effective than singing a given melody in learning foreign language phrases. Recall for foreign language phrases sung to given melodies was not significantly different than recall for phrases sung to self-composed melodies at any retention interval (all p-values > .50). Despite finding only null results, this research sheds light on the question of when music may be successfully employed to enhance learning and suggests that familiarity of the music and difficulty of the learning task may be important factors.

Included in

Psychology Commons