Music and the Mind

COGS 157 syllabus

Location: Peterson 104
: 10:00-10:50 MWF, Spring 2018

Professor: Sarah Creel
Office hours: Wed 11-12, CSB 167; or email me!
Email: scréél å ücsd døt édü (please retype without funny symbols)

Graduate teaching assistant: Zoe Cheng
Office hours: 9-10 Friday in SSRB 235, or email to set up a meeting
Email:  tzçhéng ücsd døt édü (please retype without funny symbols)

Course textbook:
Thompson, W. F. (2013). Music, thought, and feeling: Understanding the psychology of music (2nd ed.). New York: Oxford.

More readings and schedule:
Available here

Suggested readings:
Ani Patel (2008). Music, the Brain, and Language.
Leonard Meyer (1956). Emotion and Meaning in Music.
David Huron (2006). Sweet Anticipation.

Course overview
How does music affect thought and perception? People have asked how language affects thought and perception, but music has been strongly linked to the perception of motion, emotions, a sense of stability vs. instability, and bodily movement. Experience with music in childhood can affect how the brain processes sound, and may be related to differences in language perception. In this class, we will discuss developmental, behavioral, neural, and genetic influences on the processing of musical pitch and rhythm. Some class meetings will be lectures, but most will be discussions based on the readings.

Course goals

  • Gain knowledge about music cognition
  • Become familiar with locating primary sources
  • Learn to critique scientific papers
  • Improve your writing skills


How to succeed in the class

  • Read the assigned articles/chapters.
  • Participate in class discussions.
  • Five times during the quarter, you will summarize one article briefly (2 pages) out of the set of readings for that week, following the writing guidelines specified here. Turn it in on TritonEd at the beginning of class on Mondays. You should demonstrate that you’re thinking about what you’re reading and that you’re utilizing concepts discussed in class.
  • Study for the midterm.
  • Complete the final paper assignment.
  • Follow guidelines for academic honesty throughout (below).

Final paper (more info here)

  • Design your own experiment!
  • Paper should consist of a literature review that leads up to the research question you want to ask, followed by a detailed plan of how you would conduct the experiment.
  • Alternatively, you can write a review paper on a topic of interest. A review paper is your own synthesis of a comprehensive set of articles on a particular topic.
  • Consult with me by end of Week 5 about content.
  • Some content guidelines here, though some variations in form are allowable. Obviously, you won’t have a “Results” section because you haven’t done the experiment.

Paper formatting guidelines:
Please use 1-inch margins and 12-point font, double-spaced. Times font is preferred.
Try to use as little direct quotation as possible; summaries and the final paper should be in your own words. If you are quoting more than 1-2 sentences directly (remember to give citations in the text and “include page number(s);” Creel, 2013, p. 12), it’s too much.
The reference list and in-text citations should follow APA style. The paper listed below is an example of reference list format. (DOI numbers can be omitted.)

Creel, S. C. (2013). A cognitive science investigation of citation style in American college courses. Journal of Made-Up Results, 4(12), 1-120.




  • Five short papers, each of which summarizes a published paper from class: 30% (6% each). If you complete 6, your lowest grade will be dropped.
  • Midterm: 20%
  • Course attendance and participation: 20%
  • Final paper: 30% (10% for annotated bibliography; 20% for final paper itself)

Grades will be assigned as follows:

  • A         93-100
  • A-        90-92
  • B+       86-89
  • B         83-85
  • B-        80-82
  • C+       76-79
  • C         73-75
  • C-        70-72
  • D         60-70
  • F          0-59

Academic honesty:

  • Cheating is a disservice to yourself and others. Don’t do it. See here for more information, or ask me if you’re in doubt. (It’s okay to ask!)
  • You can paraphrase things from the article[s] you read, but cite them (Creel, 2009, Journal of Null Results). Try to avoid direct quotations by putting things in your own words. If you do quote directly, it should be “in quotes as well as cited” (Creel, 2009, p. 42).
  • You can discuss the articles with others, but you cannot share material that you write.
  • Your writing should be your own, not another student’s.
  • It should not contain more than 20 words of quotation (cited or otherwise) from the article(s) you are writing about.

Classroom behavior:
Please refrain from using electronic devices for any non-class purpose. It is disrespectful and distracting to other students to tweet, check Facebook, etc. in the middle of a course (Sana, Weston, & Cepeda, 2013, Computers and Education). If this becomes a persistent problem, expect to be called on to share the contents of your computer screen!

Late work:
Generally not accepted. If you have an exceptional situation, please consult me in advance.

Please let me know in advance. Because this is a discussion-based course, any absence should be made up by reading the assigned articles and writing a 3-page summary of one of them. If you miss a lecture, it is your responsibility consult one of your fellow students to get notes from another member of the class.