Short-Term Memory Recall

Chaitanya Kalathuru 3rd


To test a student’s ability to recall abstract versus concrete words with the influence of unrelated background music


If an individual’s is required to memorize concrete and abstract with popular music, then the individual will easily recall the concrete words because of the dual coding theory, in which people can mentally convert concrete words into mental image depicting the specific word, and that popular music was distract the individual, thus disrupting their encoding of the visual stimuli into the short-term memory.


1) 50 subjects

2) Computer

3) Two slideshows of 30 nouns, with each list containing a mixture of 15 concrete words and 15 abstract words

4) A popular song such as “Animals” by Martin Garrix

5) Paper

6) Pen/Pencil


Independent: Types of words (concrete nouns versus abstract nouns) and presence of noise (background popular music vs no music)

Dependent: Number of abstract and concrete words recalled when listening to popular music or no music

Control Group: The 50 subjects without music

Experimental Group: The 50 subject with music

Factors Held Constant: Same participant for with music and without music, same words for every participant, same music, same time limit for each word


1) Find a participant

2) Receive the participant’s consent to partake in the experiment

3) Tell the subject to sit down in front of the computer on which the slideshows will be played

4) The participant views the first slide, which has 15 concrete words and 15 abstract words (The words in the power point are randomized)

5) After the participant has seen all of the words, tell the subject to write down the words he remembered on a piece of paper

6) Record the amount of words he/she remembered, and the amount of concrete and abstract words he/she recalled

7) The participant will view another slide with 15 concrete words, but this time a popular song will be played simultaneously

8) After the participant has seen the 15 concrete words, tell him/her to write down the words he remembered on a piece of paper

9) Record the amount of words he remembered, and the amount of concrete and abstract words he/she recalled

10) Repeat steps (1-9) 50 times


By examining the data, it can be concluded that people can recall abstract words better than concrete words. It can also be concluded that people can recall more words without music interference. According to the data, the average number of abstract words recalled was 10.78 words. The average number of concrete words recalled was 9.24 words. The average number of abstract words recalled with music is 4.38, and average number of abstract words recalled without music is 6.4. On the other hand, the average number of concrete words recalled with music is 3.82 words, and the average number of concrete words recalled without music is 5.42 words. The standard deviation for the data is generally between one word to two words; the standard deviation is heavily influenced by outliers in the data such as subject 8.Throughout the data, it is apparent that people were able to recall abstract words better than concrete words. Since the dual-coding theory implies that abstract words are harder to remember due to their lack of mental imagery, a possible explanation for these results is that the music further increases the difficulty of remembering abstract words. The emotions evoked in the song could have distracted participants from relating to the emotions expressed from the abstract words in the slideshows. As for the lack of significant difference between retention of concrete words versus that of abstract words, although concrete words are easily stored in working memory because of the formation of mental images, abstract words are easily relatable to each individual person, allowing them to think of the words in term of their own lives and recall them. The idea shows that people generally remember words and ideas better when they can personally relate to them.


The hypothesis was proven to be incorrect because the claim was that people could recall concrete words better than abstract words. It was proven through the experiment that abstract words are easier to recall. It was also hypothesized that subjects would remember more words without music interference than with music; it proved to be correct.

Sources of Error and Inaccuracies

There are many sources of error and inaccuracies that are present in this experiment. One source of error would be the type of music because some people are able to work more efficiently with one genre of music, and be unproductive with another type of music. Therefore, it would have been beneficial to test using multiples genres of music like classical, rock, and popular. Another source of error is the people who make up the sample. The sample is not a very good representation of the population because it does not correctly assess everyone. The way the data was collected was by asking people nearby to partake in the experiment. This caused people of the same ethnicity to partake in this experiment, which therefore causes a lack of diversity. Nonresponse bias is also likely to have occurred since the facilitator of this experiment gave the test out to people who were willing to take the test, and this therefore causes a loss of the population who were not willing to take the test. This causes bias in the data; therefore the data is most likely not valid. In order for a valid sample, the facilitator should have created an SRS (Simple Random Sample), and should have given it to random groups of people. This therefore eliminates a huge proportion of bias in the sample.


This experiment is applicable to real life because it gave insight into how people should study to retain more information. Many high school students try to cram a huge amount of information in a small period of time; this experiment effectively assesses the proper way to retain more info. From the results, it was concluded that abstract words had more retention. Also, it was also concluded that people had more retention without music. People can use these results to avoid using music while studying, and to incorporate meaningful ideas to the info. It is important that people know what I had learned because this information can improve test scores for high school students, and give people are bright future.


There are many way where I could improve my experimental design. I could have compared males and females to see if there are any discrepancies regarding gender and short-term memory recall. This would have given more insight into this topic. I could have also tested a more diverse population because my subjects of my test were very similar. If I had tested a diverse population, it would have given more reliable and good results. A continuation experiment that I could have tested using another variable is to experiment with different kinds of music such as rock, classical, metal, jazz, pop, and etc. By doing this, this would have given more insight into what types of music is good for short term memory recall.