The term project may be a research paper, review paper, or research project (e.g. psychological or physiological experiment, computer model/simulation) related to the psychology of music. Students are required to give oral presentations on their selected topics early in the term and present their project results at the end of the term. Final project papers (25-30 pp. double-spaced) are due on the last day of class.

Some Possible Term Project Topics

These are just some ideas and general topics to get you started in thinking about a project. Choose a topic that is closest to your strongest interests and narrow down the focus of the project.

Music Perception

  • Music synthesis and timbre perception
  • Consonance and the construction of musical scales
  • Overtones and undertones in the theories of harmony
  • Biological and cultural determinants of tonal preferences
  • Absolute pitch: categorical perception, perceptual labeling, associative learning and/or auditory memory?
  • Topology of pitch space (Shepard, Krumhansl)
  • Temporal theories of music (Boomslider and Creel)
  • Music perception by cochlear implant users
  • Perceptual considerations in the design of musical instruments
  • Architectural acoustics and music perception
  • Psychoacoustical study: consonance of dyads and triads: pure and complex tones
  • Psychoacoustical study: limits of musical tonality
  • Psychoacoustical study: limits of rhythmic perception
  • Psychological study: What aspects of music do people remember? Melody, rhythm, lyrics, etc.
  • Psychological survey: How important is music to happiness? Identity? How does it rank amongst other aspects of life?
  • Computer simulation: auditory nerve simulation of musical sounds (Computer programs are available)
  • Computer models of pitch and rhythm: clocks, oscillators, delay lines, neural nets
  • Musical composition: Should be accompanied by an in depth discussion of the psychological factors explored in the piece

Music Cognition

  • The basis of melodic invariance?
  • Tonal schematas
  • Rhythmic hierarchies
  • Recognition of musical style
  • Musical phonetics: similarities and contrasts between music and speech
  • Music and linguistics: similarities and contrasts between music and language
  • Musical imagery
  • Musical humor (psychological theories of humor and how musical humor fits in)
  • How do animals experience music? How unique is the human experience of music?
  • Music and pleasure: an overview of competing explanations
  • Musical analgesia: use of music to mask pain (e.g. by dentists)
  • Music and addiction: is music psychologically addictive?
  • The role of music in identity formation
  • Determinants of taste: social psychology of music
  • Personality and musical style
  • Musical creativity
  • Music therapy: evaluation of current approaches

Developmental Issues

  • The development of tonal expectation (infant studies)
  • Piaget and musical schematas

Neuroscience of Music

  • Neural mechanisms for pitch perception
  • Neural models for pitch perception
  • Functional imaging using musical stimuli

Music and Memory: Attention Span and Musical Structure

  • Long term memory of musical melodies
  • Rhythm, melody, lyrics and memory formation
  • Psychological theory of the hit song: what makes a pop song hook memorable?
  • Unwanted visitors or why can't I get that song out of my head?
  • Psychological roots of emotion and meaning in music
  • The perception of time
  • The neurophysiology of temporal expectations (e.g. event-related potentials)
  • The psychology of music and movement (perceptual and kinesthestic)
  • Body rhythms and rhythm perception


  • Practice makes perfect: stages in the mastery of musical skills


  • Music and mind in ancient Greek thought (Pythagoreans, Plato, Aristotle, Greek physics)
  • Metaphors of universal harmony in Music, Physics, Psychology, and Social Theory
  • Gestaltist theories of music: Carl Stumpf's tonal fusion, melody as relation
  • Associationist theories of music: Helmholtz and modern connectionism