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Mem Cognit. 2007 Jun;35(4):628-39.

Memory decreases for prose, but not for poetry.

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CNRS-UMR 5020, Université Lyon 1, Lyon, France.


Memory for details of text generally declines relatively rapidly, whereas memory for propositional and context-based meanings is generally more resilient over time. In the present study, we investigated short-term memory for two kinds of verbal material: prose and poetry. Participants heard or read prose stories or poems in which aphrase near the start of the passage served as a target. The text continued, and after various delays, memory was tested with a repetition of the target (old verbatim; O), a paraphrased lure (P), or a lure in which the meaning was changed. For prose, memory for surface details (as measured by O/P discrimination) declined over time (Experiments 2-4), as was expected. For poetry, memory for surface details (O/P discrimination) did not decline with increasing delay (Experiments 1, 3, and 4). This lack of decline in memory for the surface details of poetry is discussed in relation to similar results previously observed for musical excerpts (Dowling, Tillmann, & Ayers, 2001), suggesting that a particular role is played by the temporal organization and rhythmic structure of poetry andmusic.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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