I just came across a great paper on learning through educational songs. Can watching Schoolhouse Rock help people memorize the Preamble to the Constitution of the United States?
Researchers found it did. The video is above, and the paper is here.
The most interesting nuance I found in the paper was the role of repetition. It’s not necessarily that music is stored and recalled in a privileged way (though that is not ruled out). But it is certainly true that the more times you go over something, the more likely you are to remember it. So if songs (via catchiness and getting stuck in your head) cause you to repeat something over and over, they may improve recall more effectively than a single reading of a textbook whose words aren’t so “sticky”.
The other nuance, which wasn’t discussed much, is that these authors were only testing verbatim recall: how perfectly people could remember every word of the Preamble. They were not testing anything deeper, such as the meaning or principles that those words represent. Just raw memorization. Thats an area I hope to expand on in my work.
But their combination of long-term follow-up and randomized control trials is very similar to the methodology I’ve got cookin’ over here in New Zealand. More Schoolhouse Rock videos can be found here.