Music Perception and Cognition Group

Queen Mary, University of London

Welcome to the Music Cognition Lab at Queen Mary, University of London!

Music is not simply an acoustic sequence of overlapping complex sounds but a fundamentally a psychological phenomenon. It exists as a physical entity but can only be distinguished from mere sound in the mind of a listener. Therefore, in our endeavour to understand the phenomenon of music, we take a cognitive approach to studying all aspects of music perception and creation. Our research methods cover behavioural testing paradigms, but also neuroimaging techniques and computational modelling. Most of our current work falls into one of the following research areas:

Music Perception and Cognition

Researchers of the the Music Cognition Lab develop experimental procedures to test the way in which listeners represent and process musical structure at different levels of abstraction. From low-level features of notes to high-level features of musical pieces. This covers studies on the cognitive representations of musical pieces and the psychological processes involved in learning musical styles, in generating expectations about music, in grouping musical elements and in analysing musical structure.

Empirical Aesthetics of Music

Musical behaviours date back thousands of years in the history of humanity and exists in all modern cultures. We spend a large proportion of our time listening to music. So why do we find music so pleasurable? Research conducted in the Music Cognition Lab aims to provide answers to that question by investigating the psychological and neural processes involved in musical appreciation. Experiments involve emotion induction by music, and the assessment of aesthetic preference and the experience of pleasure and beauty. The goal is to understand how properties of the music, the individual and the context determine the nature of an aesthetic experience of music.

Psychoacoustics

In the field of psychoacoustics, the Music Cognition Lab conducts experiments in which low-level acoustic features of music such as pitch, timbre, dynamics and loudness are examined in terms of their psychological processing by the auditory system.