Children and adults, with or without music training, exhibit better memory for vocal melodies (without lyrics) than for instrumental melodies (Weiss, Schellenberg, Trehub, & Dawber, 2015; Weiss, Trehub, & Schellenberg, 2012; Weiss, Trehub, Schellenberg, & Habashi, 2016; Weiss, Vanzella, Schellenberg, & Trehub, 2015). In the present study, we compared adults’ memory for vocal and instrumental melodies, as before, but with two additional singers, one female (same pitch level as the original female) and one male (7 semitones lower). In an exposure phase, 90 participants (M = 4.1 years training, SD = 3.9) rated their liking of 24 melodies—6 each in voice, piano, banjo, and marimba. After a short break, they heard the same melodies plus 24 timbre-matched foils (6 per timbre) and rated their recognition of each melody. Recognition was better for vocal melodies than for melodies in every other timbre, replicating previous findings. Importantly, the memory advantage was comparable across voices, despite the fact that liking ratings for vocal melodies differed by singer. Our results provide support for the notion that the vocal advantage in memory for melodies is independent of the idiosyncrasies of specific singers or of vocal attractiveness, arising instead from enhanced processing of a biologically significant timbre.
- Received February 8, 2016.
- Accepted May 10, 2016.
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