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Dev Sci. 2004 Jun;7(3):289-96.

Long-term memory for music: infants remember tempo and timbre.

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Department of Psychology, McMaster University, Hamilton, Canada.


We show that infants' long-term memory representations for melodies are not just reduced to the structural features of relative pitches and durations, but contain surface or performance tempo- and timbre-specific information. Using a head turn preference procedure, we found that after a one week exposure to an old English folk song, infants preferred to listen to a novel folk song, indicating that they remembered the familiarized melody. However, if the tempo (25% faster or slower) or instrument timbre (harp vs. piano) of the familiarized melody was changed at test, infants showed no preference, indicating that they remembered the specific tempo and timbre of the melodies. The results are consistent with an exemplar-based model of memory in infancy rather than one in which structural features are extracted and performance features forgotten.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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