Auditory and visual memory in musicians and nonmusicians

Michael A Cohen, Karla K Evans, Todd S Horowitz, Jeremy M Wolfe

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Numerous studies have shown that musicians outperform nonmusicians on a variety of tasks. Here we provide the first evidence that musicians have superior auditory recognition memory for both musical and nonmusical stimuli, compared to nonmusicians. However, this advantage did not generalize to the visual domain. Previously, we showed that auditory recognition memory is inferior to visual recognition memory. Would this be true even for trained musicians? We compared auditory and visual memory in musicians and nonmusicians using familiar music, spoken English, and visual objects. For both groups, memory for the auditory stimuli was inferior to memory for the visual objects. Thus, although considerable musical training is associated with better musical and nonmusical auditory memory, it does not increase the ability to remember sounds to the levels found with visual stimuli. This suggests a fundamental capacity difference between auditory and visual recognition memory, with a persistent advantage for the visual domain.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)586-91
Number of pages6
JournalPsychonomic bulletin & review
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2011


  • Acoustic Stimulation
  • Adult
  • Auditory Perception
  • Educational Status
  • Humans
  • Memory
  • Music
  • Photic Stimulation
  • Recognition (Psychology)
  • Visual Perception

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