Music Cognition

special topics in psychology (PSYC 4541)
CU–Boulder, Summer 2016
Kris Shaffer, Ph.D. – instructor

Music Cognition 2016 Course Introduction from Kris Shaffer on Vimeo.

Also see the video tour of D2L and this course website.

Getting started

Welcome to Music Cognition online! Please start here to get oriented to the course and submit the first (super-easy) assignment for Monday, June 1, 7am (MDT).


Week 1 – June 1–5

Introduction to auditory memory.

What is a musical note? a chord? rhythm? Do musicians define these differently than cognitive scientists? What exactly do we hear when we listen to music?
We will engage these and other related questions during this unit, as we begin to explore the workings of the human auditory system and basic musical concepts.


Week 2 – June 8–12

Music on the small scale – chords, phrases, rhythm

Is music really a "universal language"? This is a common claim from both musicians and music lovers — but is it true?


Week 3 – June 15–19

Schemas, categories, styles

What makes a musical expert? Are only trained musicians experts? Or do we all have a robust, nuanced understanding of musical style and practice?


Week 4 – June 22–26

Form, expectation, emotion

What is a piece of music that really grips you? What is it about that piece, that moment that floors you every time you hear it? And why is it that we can keep coming back to the same songs, albums, artists without getting bored? What is this seemingly indefatigable power that some music seems to have over us?


Week 5 – June 29–July 3

Reassessments and final projects