Music Volume Effects on Context-Dependent Memory

Document Type


Degree Name

Specialist in School Psychology (SSP)


Psychology and Special Education

Date of Award

Spring 2014


Understanding how background music affects memory is essential to determine the best conditions in which we learn and retrieve information. Empirically, it has been shown that what is learned in one context is best retrieved in the same context resulting in context-dependent memory (CDM). A narrower focus known as music-dependent memory has been a driving force in recent CDM studies. Dimensions of music that have induced music-dependent memory include tempo and tonality (e.g., Balch & Lewis, 1996; Balch, Bowman, & Mohler, 1992; Mead & Ball, 2007). In this study, an additional aspect of music, volume, was manipulated to attempt to induce a CDM effect. Music was played in two different contexts [low volume (LV) and high volume (HV)] to create separate learning and retrieval contexts. Participants were placed into one of four groups (LV-LV, HV-HV, LV-HV, and HV-LV). The LV-HV group, for example, experienced low volume (LV) music during encoding and high volume (HV) music during retrieval. This group was one of two mismatched groups (LV-HV and HV-LV). Two groups were matched groups in which both encoding and retrieval will have matched music conditions (LV-LV and HV-HV). No CDM effect was found in the present study. In other words, participants in the matched group did not recall any more or less than participants placed in the mismatched group. Participants were surveyed on their mood throughout encoding and retrieval to determine whether volume acts as a mediator to influence mood-dependent memory. Although participants experienced greater pleasantness during encoding and greater arousal during retrieval, it was not dependent on volume contexts. An additional aim of this study was to explore whether individuals' experience with listening to music while studying affected recall, particularly CDM. In this study, it was found that the belief that one studies better with music did not result in higher or lower recall scores compared to those who do not prefer to listen to music while studying.


Lacy Krueger

Subject Categories

Psychology | Social and Behavioral Sciences