Beyond List and Gist: Factors Contributing to Accurate Memory for Verse

Date of Completion

January 2012


Psychology, Cognitive




Three experiments examined how rhythmic movements influenced participants' memories for the surface features of connected text by manipulating the meaning, meter, or rhyme. In all three experiments, participants were asked to either rhythmically move or remain still as they listened to a model recite limericks. In Experiments 2 and 3, their movement was also manipulated as they were tested on single-line test items that came from limericks they had not previously heard, came directly from the limericks they had learned or that modified the meaning, meter, rhyme or surface features of the original lines. Moving during learning and testing did not affect participant's ability to discriminate between original and foil items. However, participants were generally less confident in the answers they gave when the material had been learned while moving than when not moving. In contrast, they were more confident in the answer they gave when they were tested while moving compared to not moving. Participants' ability to discriminate between originals and foils was affected by the type of stimulus to which they were responding. They were best able to detect changes to the meaning of the original, and worst to detect changes that modified the surface features without changing the meaning, meter or rhyme scheme. This result is consistent with a large body of literature showing better memory for gist than for surface features. ^