A publication of the Department of English & Philosophy at Drexel University

Words & Lyrics

While I was singing along at the Andrew Bird concert last night (I highly recommend listening to his songs if you’ve never heard any), I couldn’t help but think of the Drexel Distinguished Lecturer, David Eagleman, and his talk this past Wednesday.

At the lecture, he covered a number of topics, and an interesting tidbit of information stuck with me from the Synesthesia part of his lecture. I had never heard this term before Wednesday, so for those of you who don’t know what it is, here’s the technical definition form Eagleman’s website: “Synesthesia is a perceptual condition of mixed sensations: a stimulus in one sensory modality (e.g., hearing) involuntarily elicits a sensation/experience in another modality (e.g. vision).”

To put it more simply, the following are two examples. If you tell a Synesthete to think of the letter ‘g’, he or she may associate the color green to it. If a Synesthete is listening to a song, say Andrew Bird, he or she can visualize the music and it becomes a sort of musical canvas in their brain. The types of Synesthesia run the gamut, so the pairings of different senses go far beyond the two given examples. ¬†When he was discussing this ability, he mentioned that an advantage a Synesthete has is that he or she is likely to be better at memorization because they can not only tie a concept down in words but also through colors, sounds, or what have you.

He took this concept further and explained that we often are able to memorize song lyrics better than other pieces of information because our brain can remember the words and also the music associated to it. Because there is a “double filing system” in our brains, per say, we are more likely to remember this information. While I was listening to him, I couldn’t help but thinking how true it is. I can recite the lyrics of so many 90s boy band songs from years ago, but I can’t manage to get ahold of history dates I learned yesterday.

I also came to realize that the academic facts that stick with me are often the ones that have some sort of rhythm to them, as in “In 1942, Columbus sailed the ocean blue.” So the next time you have to memorize a stack of bio notecards or key dates of WWII, try setting the facts to a rhythm and, hopefully, you’ll ace your exam.

1 Comment »

One Response to “Words & Lyrics”

  1. Ari says:

    That’s why Animaniacs is one of the most powerful kids shows ever created. They created catchy educational songs that I memorized as a kid. Made me popular in 3rd grade history class, when I could recite every president of the U.S. in order, every state and its capital, and the planets in order from the sun.

    Nations of the world: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IDtdQ8bTvRc
    Presidents: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vvy0wRLD5s8
    States and capitals: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sNUDDaEOvuY

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