Research

Here, you can learn about some of the current research projects in the lab. If you are particularly interested in any of these lines of work, feel free to contact us for more information. Additionally, some of these projects have web-based components, so if you are interested in getting a more first-hand feel for some of these projects, we encourage you to participate.


Intonation

Musical Intonation and Preference

Musical preferences are diverse, to say the least. One individual may cherish the Romantic-era orchestrations of Bruckner and Sibelius, whereas another individual may detest all things "classical" and instead gravitate toward contemporary pop music. Some of our current research examines whether musical intonation (i.e., the mapping of musical notes to specific auditory frequencies) influences musical preference. Conventional thought would suggest that as long as the relative "rises" and "falls" that make up melodies are preserved, intonation should not matter. Yet, many orchestras deliberately tune to different standards (e.g., tuning the "A" above "middle C" anywhere from 436 to 444 Hz) to achieve different aesthetic outcomes. We are currently studying how intonation is represented in long-term memory, and how intonation may influence listeners' aesthetic preferences for music.



Sequences

Rhythm and Sequence Learning

Learning how different sounds unfold over time is a critical component of both speech and music understanding. How are listeners able to learn and remember such complex auditory sequences? Some of our current research examines how rhythmic entrainment may facilitate complex auditory sequence learning. Entrainment can be defined as the process that allows two independent rhythmic events to synchronize with one another. For example, when we listen to music, we can often tap along to the "beat" of the music, identifying "strong" (more stressed) and "weak" (less stressed) events. This entrainment between perceptual and motor systems may allow individuals to optimize how they anticipate, attend to, and ultimately learn complex sequences. Overall, this work aims to use musical rhythms to optimize auditory sequence learning across the lifespan.



Sequences

Absolute Pitch

If you ask a musician for an example of a musical talent or gift, one of the most common answers would be absolute pitch (also known as perfect pitch), and for good reason. Typically defined as the ability to name or produce musical notes seemingly "out of thin air," absolute pitch is thought to be exceedingly rare. Absolute pitch has fascinated musicians, scholars, and the general population since it was first formally described, largely because of its conceptualization as a rare and enigmatic talent. Some of our current research examines fundamental aspects of absolute pitch, such as how it is distributed in the population. Are there really two, clearly distinct groups of listeners - those with and those without absolute pitch - or is absolute pitch ability more continuously distributed in the population? To help us answer this question, we encourage you to test your absolute pitch ability with our online assessment.