Lost in translation: An enculturation effect in music memory performance

Steven M. Demorest*, Steven J. Morrison, Münir N. Beken, Denise Jungbluth

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

59 Scopus citations


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.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)213-223
Number of pages11
JournalMusic Perception
Issue number3
StatePublished - Feb 2008


  • Cultural differences
  • Enculturation
  • Familiarity
  • Music expertise
  • Music memory

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Music


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