Enhancing Working Memory Recall: Comparing Modalities of Absurd Rhymes in Adults


  • Ana Lara Schwarzbartl University of Vienna
  • W. Tecumseh Fitch University of Vienna


The purpose of this study is to evaluate the notion that memory retention for text, specifically absurd rhymes, differs based on the modality in which the rhymes are perceived. The use of rhymes to support the encoding and retrieval of information is widely practised in modern education and everyday life, particularly in relation to working memory (WM) for daily activities. While the melodic and rhythmic context of a rhyme enhances text recall, there is limited evidence that these benefits are consistent across different modalities used in rhyme perception [1]. The most commonly discussed components of WM are the “phonological loop” and the “visuospatial sketchpad,” along with a “central executive” that oversees and controls WM operations [2]. This comparative study aims to evaluate the effects of auditory presentation versus visual presentation on immediate and short-term working memory retention in adults.

Given that rhythm support persists even in the absence of melody, auditory presentation will involve recitation. Visual presentation will involve reading the text of absurd rhymes. Absurd rhymes are used based on the idea that the rhythm of a rhyme is particularly effective when other organizational methods for memory are unrecognizable. To clarify the study results, we focus on the rhythm of the rhyme without meaningful information, which could be the basis for memory recall. Absurd rhymes are a better fit since rhythm and rhyme impose a memory pattern that requires organization by means other than meaningful content.

We isolated visual and aural presentation styles and the meaning of rhymes during four different conditions presented to two groups of participants: (a) Visual absurd rhyme, (b) Visual meaningful rhyme, (c) Aural absurd rhyme, and (d) Aural meaningful rhyme. Participants (N ≈ 40) included males and females aged 18-65 years, proficient in English (at least B2 level), with no visual or hearing problems, and no neurological impairments [3].

Our hypotheses suggest that adults who experience the auditory presentation of absurd rhymes will exhibit significantly higher immediate recall in WM compared to those who experience the visual presentation of the same absurd rhymes. Additionally, there will be a significant interaction between presentation modality (auditory vs. visual) and rhyme type (absurd vs. meaningful) on working memory recall.


[1] A. J. Good, F. A. Russo, and J. Sullivan, "The efficacy of singing in foreign-language learning," Psychology of Music, vol. 43, no. 5, pp. 627-640, 2015.

[2] A. D. Baddeley, "The phonological loop and the irrelevant speech effect: Some comments on Neath (2000)," Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, vol. 7, no. 3, pp. 544-549, 2000.

[3] M. J. Silverman and E. T. Schwartzberg, "Effects of Visual and Auditory Presentation Styles and Musical Elements on Working Memory as Measured by Monosyllabic Sequential Digit Recall," Psychological Reports, vol. 122, no. 4, pp. 1297–1312, 2019. DOI: 10.1177/0033294118781937.