Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts Honours


Faculty of Community Services, Education and Social Sciences

First Advisor

Dr Craig Speelman


Previous research on memory for music has typically measured participants' reaction times (RTs) and accuracy in tests of recall and recognition of songs presented to them. The current study was interested in what occurs during the time that elapses between stimulus onset and the generation of a response. It has been suggested that people sing or hum to themselves as they search for an answer (Rubin, 1977), but a question that has been overlooked to date is in what direction this occurs. As music unfolds in time, it was proposed that in memory for music, 'forward is best'. In the current experiment, 44 university students and 6 members of the public were asked to identify whether the second excerpt (probe line) of a pair of excerpts taken from a song, came 'before' or 'after' the first excerpt (target line) in the normal course of the song. Seven pairs of excerpts, three pairs falling before the target line, and four pairs occurring after the target line, were presented for each of eight popular and two new songs heard earlier. It was predicted that RTs for identifying the probe lines occurring 'after' the target line would be shorter than those coming 'before' the target line. Results supported this hypothesis with significantly shorter RTs in the 'after' condition than the 'before' condition, and indicated that memory for music is biased in a forward direction. An explanation of the structure of song, and the integration effect of melody and text is presented to accommodate the findings.