Visit the Music Lab with your baby

Visit the Music Lab with your baby!

We are now recruiting babies age 2 to 12 months for science research about the world's music. In the study, babies listen to songs while we measure their heart rate, pupil dilation, gaze, motion, and more!

We are conveniently located on Harvard's Cambridge campus, with free parking, and you can take home a Music Lab onesie or other cool prizes as a thank-you gift.

Please note that we are not currently running in-person studies due to the COVID-19 pandemic. You can still sign up to participate in future studies with your baby — we'll contact you when our in-person studies are back in operation.

learn more

If you are reading this, you are probably doing so on a device that plays music. You are probably able to hear and understand that music. You probably can also produce music of your own, even if you've never had music lessons. You probably engage with music on a regular basis, regardless of your cultural background, location in the world, or socioeconomic status. You have probably been this way your whole life.

In the Music Lab, we're figuring out why the human mind is designed in such a way that all of the above is true. We do basic cognitive science experiments with many different populations and with people who live all over the world, including in small-scale societies. We also work on large corpus studies of ethnographies and field recordings from the Natural History of Song project, which we host.

The Music Lab is based in the School of Psychology at Harvard University. Soon, we will be moving to our new homes at the University of Auckland (in New Zealand) and Yale University (in New Haven, as a part of Haskins Labs).

On this site, you can learn more about us and about our work, read our papers, and participate in experiments online!

news

  • We are moving! From July 2022, we will be based at Yale University as a part of Haskins Laboratories.
  • Our new paper "Infants relax in response to unfamiliar foreign lullabies" is out in Nature Human Behaviour - thank you to all the families that helped make this project possible!
  • Our new Natural History of Song paper is out in Science!

people

Samuel Mehr

Samuel Mehr

Principal Investigator (website)
Sam is an Eastman-trained musician and Harvard-trained scientist interested in how and why human minds are designed to perceive and produce music. He grew up in Cambridge, MA and Lexington, MA. You can follow him @samuelmehr, where he often posts about being an academic dad.
Courtney Hilton

Courtney Hilton

Postdoctoral Fellow
Courtney is a cognitive scientist interested in music, language, and how people learn. Originally trained as a classical guitarist at the Australian National University, he then got distracted, accidentally getting a PhD on the topic of rhythm in language processing at the University of Sydney. He is also readily distracted by other pursuits such as making music, playing chess, and reading philosophy. He grew up in the rural town of Gidgegannup in Western Australia. You can follow him @courtneybhilton.
Logan James

Logan James

Affiliated Postdoc
Logan is a biologist who investigates acoustic communication in animals. He completed his PhD with Jon Sakata (McGill University) studying biases in how birds learn and produce songs. Currently, he investigates call preferences in frogs with Mike Ryan (UT Austin/Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute), as well as how frog communication signals vary across species. He has recently expanded his cross-species comparisons to analyze biases in acoustic perception in a range of species such as crickets, tree frogs, sparrows, and humans.
Ekanem Ebinne

Ekanem Ebinne

Research Assistant
Ekanem Ebinne is working on a project on infant-directed music and its relation to well-being in parents. In her free time she enjoys permaculture gardening, choir singing, and all things Portugal.
Lidya Yurdum

Lidya Yurdum

Affiliated Graduate Student
Lidya joined the Music Lab in 2019 as a summer RA, and has since continued to work on projects remotely, from her new home in the Netherlands. She is currently completing a Research Masters in psychology at the University of Amsterdam, and is exploring how humans communicate cross-culturally, in the areas of music and emotion.
Cody Moser

Cody Moser

Affiliated Graduate Student
Cody is a PhD student at the University of California, Merced working on questions related to agent-based modeling, cross-cultural psychology, modularity, and cultural innovation. In his free time he enjoys writing, flint knapping, and primitive archery. You can follow him @LTF_01.
Jan Simson

Jan Simson

Affiliated Graduate Student
Jan joined the Lab at the beginning of 2019 as a research intern before returning full-time after graduating from his bachelor’s. He is currently finishing up his master’s in Psychology/Behavioral Data Science at the University of Amsterdam and has written his thesis with the lab trying to better understand what it is that makes us like music. In his free time he enjoys bouldering and playing tennis as well as the occasional bike ride. You can follow him @_jansimson.
Rachel Yan

Rachel Yan

Affiliated Graduate Student
Rachel is a PhD student in Psychology at the University of Michigan. As an avid piano player, who also studies psychology and data science, she is curious about the impact of music on children’s social- cognitive development. She has been working on a project looking at how dialect change may affect children’s literacy skills with Peter de Villiers at Smith, and hopes to broaden her scope of research in music. When she’s not working, she enjoys finding good coffee and wondering around the neighborhood.
Liam Crowley

Liam Crowley

Affiliated Graduate Student
Liam Crowley is a PhD student in Psychology at Victoria University of Wellington (New Zealand). He is currently working on a project investigating children’s ability to predict musical function from a song’s form alone. Outside of lab work you’ll find Liam tending bar at his part time job, and if he’s lucky, hitting the slopes of Mt Ruapehu.
Alex Mackiel

Alex Mackiel

Affiliated Graduate Student
Alex is a psychology and English graduate of Carleton College and recently completed his master’s in Psychological Science at SUNY New Paltz. He is interested in the evolutionary and developmental origins of human psychology and cooperation. He is especially interested in how norms, morality, language, and music function to produce social behavior. In his free time he enjoys science writing, playing piano, coffee, and running outside. You can follow him @ajmackiel.
Jingxuan Liu

Jingxuan Liu

Undergraduate Researcher
Jing is an undergraduate studying psychology and statistics at Duke University. She is interested in the intersection of psychology and music, as well as how language might interact with music perception. In her free time, she enjoys playing her flute, messing around with the piano, sipping boba, and wandering around the old streets in her hometown Beijing.

collaborators, past and present

We also work with many others on the Natural History of Song project: learn more at themusiclab.org/nhs.

alumni

Mila Bertolo
Lab manager (2019-2021) and summer intern (2018), currently a PhD student in Neuroscience at the Sakata Lab at McGill University.

S. Atwood
Lab manager (2018-2019), currently a PhD student in Psychology at the Human Diversity Lab at Princeton University.

Constance Bainbridge
Research Assistant (2018-2020), currently a PhD student in Communication at UCLA, with Dr. Greg Bryant.

Julie Youngers
Summer intern (2018), currently working in the North Kansas City public schools.

recent papers

join

The Music Lab is in the process of a transition away from Harvard University. We are recruiting graduate students at both MSc and PhD levels, to be based at the University of Auckland (New Zealand; apply here), and a postdoc, to be based at Yale University (New Haven, CT, USA but with remote work options possible; apply here). Candidates interested in PhD study in Psychology at Yale can also be based in our lab, if working jointly with another Psychology faculty member. If you are interested in joining us in any of these roles, please contact Dr Mehr at sam@wjh.harvard.edu.

We do not currently have any open positions for research assistants and are not planning on hosting summer interns in 2022. From time to time we hire short-term RAs, who work remotely. If you are interested in such a position, or would like to apply to work with us for academic credit or work-study, please contact us at musiclab@g.harvard.edu. In general, we do not recruit volunteers, with the exception of students who are sponsored by their home institution to do an internship with us.

If you are a member of an underrepresented group in research, and interested in joining us, we can help you get funded with an NIH Diversity Supplement (details). Please get in touch with Dr. Mehr at sam@wjh.harvard.edu if you are interested in applying.

We are grateful to have received financial support from these organizations:

NIH
RSNZ
HDSI
Harvard FAS