Memorabeatlia: a naturalistic study of long-term memory.
Seventy-six undergraduates were given the titles and first lines of Beatles' songs and asked to recall the songs. Seven hundred and four different undergraduates were cued with one line from each of 25 Beatles' songs and asked to recall the title. The probability of recalling a line was best predicted by the number of times a line was repeated in the song and how early the line first appeared in the song. The probability of cuing to the title was best predicted by whether the line shared words with the title. Although the subjects recalled only 21% of the lines, there were very few errors in recall, and the errors rarely violated the rhythmic, poetic, or thematic constraints of the songs. Acting together, these constraints can account for the near verbatim recall observed. Fourteen subjects, who transcribed one song, made fewer and different errors than the subjects who had recalled the song, indicating that the errors in recall were not primarily the result of errors in encoding.