For many of us, music is a powerful companion through life—in the best and worst of times, and in everything in between. Why is this so? Music Cognition seeks to answer this question and more by exploring the mental processes underlying musical behaviors and how emotion, environment, cognitive capacity, personality, individual differences, and other factors influence how we perceive music. This understanding will bring new insight to music professionals, songwriters, and to music lovers who want to increase their knowledge of, and appreciation for, both music and the brain.
The course starts by teaching the scientific method—important for understanding what research has to say about music and the brain. It explores the nature of mental activities, and the brain and the neural architecture supporting thoughts and emotions. It then delves into how we perceive pitch, rhythm, tonality, and timbre, including distinctions between people who have perfect pitch and those who do not, how our perception of rhythm gives rise to musical expectancies, and how certain cognitive factors promote the development of musical systems.
The course examines human development with regard to how and when musical behaviors emerge and what methods improve musical practice. It takes a close look at musicians’ brains and how they process audio signals differently from non-musicians. It also explores arguments for and against the notion that music-making is an evolutionary adaptation in humans. The course then looks at emotion, memory, and personality, including the link between emotional responses and the acoustic cues in musical signals, strategies the brain uses for memorizing thousands of songs, the role music plays in preserving memories, and the significant ties between personality traits and musical preferences.
Music cognition is a fascinating, growing branch of experimental psychology—one that is shaping not only neuroscience and child development but many areas of the music industry, from music theory, music therapy, and music education to music performance and music production and engineering. Music Cognition students will walk away with a deeper understanding of the complexities of the human brain with regard to music, in addition to developing their critical thinking skills and ability to evaluate scientific findings related to music and the brain.
By the end of the course, you will be able to:
understand the scientific method as applied to experimental psychology
understand the organization and mechanics of the central nervous system
understand the mechanics of human hearing and the auditory pathway
identify the processing stages of sensation, perception, and cognition
identify perceptual processes such as pitch, timbre, duration, and auditory grouping
define the stages of music acquisition
distinguish between innate and acquired differences in musical abilities and in performance effects
identify the acoustical correlates of musical expertise
evaluate evidence for the evolution of the music faculty as separate from language
understand mechanisms of musical emotions
understand memory systems and how they process music
recognize the links between music preferences and personality
understand how musical training in childhood shapes the brain and auditory pathway