The effect of background music on episodic memory.

Most university students report studying while listening to background music. Although studying encompasses a range of cognitive processes, it particularly involves the memorization of new information. However, results from the literature regarding the effect of background music on long-term episodic memory (i.e., long-term memory for spatiotemporal events) are heterogeneous. Indeed, beneficial effects, and sometimes impairing and null effects, are observed. The heterogeneity of these results could be explained by methodological and individual differences across studies. Particularly, the emotional characteristics of the musical selection vary. Namely, the musical excerpts vary in their arousal levels, being either stimulating or relaxing. Moreover, individual differences such as IQ were rarely considered in previous research. Thus, the central aim of this study is to explore the effect of stimulating and relaxing background music on episodic memory while considering the variability in IQ. To do so, three groups of participants matched on sex, age, schooling years, and musical expertise memorized three word lists in the presence of stimulating or relaxing background music, or noise. Results indicate that the stimulating background music, compared with the relaxing background music and noise, marginally facilitated the memorization of the third list, only when the IQ was considered. These results suggest that episodic memory could benefit from the presence of stimulating background music, but in the context of prolonged music-listening and when considering the listeners’ IQ. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2019 APA, all rights reserved)