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Lifespan Memory for Popular Songs

James C. Bartlett and Paul Snelus
The American Journal of Psychology
Vol. 93, No. 3 (Sep., 1980), pp. 551-560
DOI: 10.2307/1422730
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/1422730
Page Count: 10
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Lifespan Memory for Popular Songs
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Abstract

Middle-aged and elderly subjects heard melody- and title-cues for popular songs dating from 1921 to 1974. Subjects made familiarity and time-of-popularity judgments, and, when a cue was recognized, they attempted lyric recall and estimated when the song was last heard. Two findings indicate that performance was based on very long term memory: Middle-aged subjects made relatively few recognition responses to songs from the twenties and thirties (when they were unborn or very young) while older subjects did not show this trend, and the last-heard judgments of all subjects were highly correlated with actual year-of-popularity. The major findings were that (a) cued recall of lyrics was higher in response to melodies than in response to titles, while temporal judgments showed no effect of cue and (b) temporal placement of a song was more accurate when recognized than when not recognized, even when lyrics were not recalled. The results suggest that accurate lifespan memory for popular songs exists, and that temporal judgments are based on episodic memory for information at least partially independent of lyric representations.

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