How Do People Think They Remember Melodies and Timbres? Phenomenological Reports of Memory for Nonverbal Sounds
Nees, Michael A.
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Memory for nonverbal sounds such as those used in sonifications has been recognized as a priority for cognitiveperceptual research in the field of auditory display. Yet memory processes for nonverbal sounds are not well understood, and existing theory and research have not provided a consensus on a mechanism of memory for nonverbal sounds. We report a new analysis of a qualitative question that asked participants to report the strategy they used to retain nonverbal sounds—both melodies and sounds discriminable primarily by timbre. The question was originally posed as part of the debriefing procedure for three separate memory experiments whose primary findings are reported elsewhere. Results of this new analysis suggested that auditory memory strategies— remembering acoustic properties of sounds—were common across both types of sounds but were more commonly reported for remembering melodies. Motor strategies were also more frequently reported for remembering melodies. Both verbal labeling of sounds and associative strategies—linking the sounds to existing information in memory—were more commonly reported as strategies for remembering sounds discriminable primarily by timbre. Implications for theory and future research are discussed.