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You are here: McMaster Institute for Music and the Mind > Publications > Long-term memory for music: infants remember tempo and timbre.

Laurel J Trainor, Luann Wu, and Christine D Tsang (2004)

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

Dev Sci, 7(3):289-96.

We show that infants' long-term memory representations for melodies are not justreduced to the structural features of relative pitches and durations, but contain surface or performance tempo- and timbre-specific information. Using a head turnpreference 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 specifictempo 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.

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