Musicians have superior performances compared to nonmusicians in many auditory perception tasks. This superiority extends to memory tasks such as the digit span. Literature suggests that the musicians’ advantage unfolds along two axes: sensory modality (musicians perform better when the task is auditory) and task complexity (musicians tend to perform better in the forward and not — for example — backward digit span). In addition, it is unclear whether there are specific music abilities linked with improved performance in the digit span. Here, musicians and nonmusicians performed a digit span task that was presented aurally, visually, or audiovisually. The task was performed with or without a concurrent task (i.e., articulatory suppression) in order to explore the role of rehearsal strategies and also manipulate task complexity. Finally, music abilities of all participants were assessed using the Profile of Music Perception Skills (PROMS) test. Musicians had larger spans than nonmusicians regardless of the sensory modality and the concurrent task. In addition, the auditory and audiovisual spans (but not visual) were correlated with one subscale of the PROMS test. Findings suggest a general advantage of musicians over nonmusicians in verbal working memory tasks, with a possible role of sensory modality and task complexity.
- Received July 25, 2015.
- Accepted March 8, 2016.
- © 2016 by The Regents of the University of California