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Musical Dissonance and cognitive performance

This project is funded by a University of Liverpool's School of the Arts Postgraduate Research Studentship.


Research shows that listening to music can enhance cognitive performance on a variety of tasks. Nonetheless, the same music might not be consistently beneficial when used in different contexts (e.g. reading, solving mathematical problems, painting) and different individuals might also react to music very differently. Furthermore, many studies strongly suggest that dissonant sounds evokes "discomfort" and are processed differently in the brain and are related to reduced performance on cognitive tasks due to the fact that it interferes with cognitive functioning. We hypothesize that dissoance can actually have no deterimental effects for certain individuals and may even be benefitial in certain cogntive tasks due to the fact that perception, acceptance and preference towards musical dissonance is cultural- and context-specific. In this context,  our aim is to investigate the effect of musical dissonance on the performance of different cognitive tasks (e.g., problem solving, math, reading) whilst considering the role of individual differences (e.g. musical sophistication, personality, individual preferences, culture). 

Yi Ting Cheah

Ph.D candidate

Supervisory team

Dr Eduardo Coutinho
Professor Michael Spitzer

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