We have ample evidence of cultural bias influencing music cognition in a variety of ways including memory. The purpose of this study was to explore the influence of various musical elements on Western-born listeners’ cross-cultural recognition memory performance. Specifically, we were interested in whether the enculturation effect found in previous studies would be observed when tuning, timbre, texture, and rhythm were equalized in the presentation of music from two different cultures. In addition we wanted to explore the possible influence of music preference on recognition memory performance. Listeners were randomly assigned to hear Western and Turkish music in one of three musical context conditions (full, monophonic, isochronous) and subsequently tested on their recognition memory. Results indicated that memory performance was superior for in-culture music regardless of contextual condition, with no significant correlation between preference and memory performance. This points to the statistical properties of pitch sequences as a possible source of culturally biased responses in music listening.
THE PURPOSE OF THIS STUDY WAS TO TEST THE cross-cultural musical understanding of trained and untrained listeners from two distinct musical cultures by exploring the influence of enculturation on musical memory performance. Trained and untrained participants (N = 150) from the United States and Turkey listened to a series of novel musical excerpts from both familiar and unfamiliar cultures and then completed a recognition memory task for each set of examples. All participants were significantly better at remembering novel music from their native culture and there were no performance differences based on musical expertise. In addition, Turkish participants were better at remembering Western music, a familiar but nonnative musical culture, than Chinese music. The results suggest that our cognitive schemata for musical information are culturally derived and that enculturation influences musical memory at a structural level.