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.

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 Department of Psychology at Harvard University. On this site, you can learn more about us and about our work, read our papers, and participate in experiments online!

news

  • Our new Natural History of Song paper is out in Science!
  • New open-access paper about open science & reproducibility, "Sight-over-sound judgments of music performances are replicable effects with limited interpretability" is published in PLOS ONE.
  • Our paper "Form and Function in Human Song" is published in Current Biology and has garnered attention from The Atlantic, The New York Times, The Economist, Smithsonian Magazine, NPR, and more!
  • Our PI, Samuel Mehr, is the recipient of an NIH Director's Early Independence Award! Read more in the Harvard Gazette.
  • New paper "Genomic Imprinting is Implicated in the Psychology of Music" is published in Psychological Science.

people

Samuel Mehr

Samuel Mehr

Principal Investigator (website)
sam@wjh.harvard.edu
Sam is an Eastman-trained musician and Harvard-trained scientist interested in cognitive and developmental science, music production and music perception, evolutionary anthropology, and other things. He grew up in Cambridge, MA and Lexington, MA. You can follow him @samuelmehr.
Mila Bertolo

Mila Bertolo

Lab Manager
Mila is a psychology graduate of Glasgow University, where she worked with social robot facial expressions. After a 14 year-long stint in Luxembourg and Scotland, and having survived the British ABRSM classical piano exams, she's returned to her birth city of Boston to research what it is about human evolution and culture that has made us so emotionally responsive to organized sound. Outside the lab you can find her wandering aimlessly around new cities, and cycling across Europe.
Constance Bainbridge

Constance Bainbridge

Developer / Research Assistant (website)
cbainbridge@g.harvard.edu
Constance is a musician and front-end web developer/designer with a background studying classical violin at Boston University as well as researching the perception of auditory and visual media in the vision lab (CSAIL) at MIT. Constance is interested in exploring the ways we use sound to experience the world around us and communicate ideas.
Jan Simson

Jan Simson

Developer / Research Fellow (website)
Jan is a Psychology graduate from Germany currently working at The Music Lab as a research fellow. He graduated from the University of Konstanz and has a background as a specialized computer scientist in application development. Outside of the lab he likes to sail, play tennis, or go climbing. He is interested in finding out how music can affect us in such strong ways, especially when it comes to our emotions.
Lidya Yurdum

Lidya Yurdum

Research Fellow
Lidya is a psychology graduate from Bogazici University, Istanbul. She’s interested in studying auditory sensation and perception, especially as it relates to music. One of the subjects she’s most excited to work on is the differential processing of pitch in speech versus music, and the use of auditory illusions to gain insight into how the brain processes sound. In her spare time, you can find her listening to podcasts or watching The Great British Bake Off.
Ghazal Jessani

Ghazal Jessani

Research Assistant
Ghazal Jessani is a Master’s student at Harvard University specializing in Human Development and Psychology. She recently completed her undergraduate studies from the University of Toronto where she did a double major in Genetics & Biotechnology and Psychology, and a double minor in Mental Health and English. When she is not at school, she can be found volunteering, performing spoken word or practicing yoga!
Hannah Alton

Hannah Alton

Undergraduate Research Assistant
Hannah is an undergraduate student at Harvard University from Arlington, Massachusetts studying neuroscience with a focus in Mind, Brain, and Behavior. She is particularly interested in the effects of music on emotion and wellbeing, as well as the biology of music perception. Outside of school, she sings in the mixed choir Collegium, as well as one of Harvard's jazz a cappella groups.
Cody Moser

Cody Moser

Visiting Graduate Student
Cody is a biological anthropology PhD student at Texas A&M University concentrating on questions in primate sensory ecology including broader work in bioacoustics, face perception, and animal deception. In his free time he enjoys traveling, writing, and the occasional pick-up game of chess.
Harry Lee-Rubin

Harry Lee-Rubin

Undergraduate Researcher
Harry is an undergraduate at Harvard University from Brooklyn, New York planning to concentrate in psychology. Current interests include timbre perception, sensorimotor synchronization, and cross-modality in implicit cognition. In his free time, you might find him playing didgeridoo or scribbling in his diary.
Anya Keomurjian

Anya Keomurjian

Undergraduate Researcher
Anya is an undergraduate student at Wellesley College studying neuroscience and cognitive and linguistic sciences. She is interested in studying the evolution of music across diverse cultures. When not working, Anya sings alto in the Wellesley College Choir and plays the campus bells as a junior member of the Guild of Carillonneurs.
Brooke Milosh

Brooke Milosh

Undergraduate Researcher
Brooke is an undergraduate student from North Attleboro, Massachusetts studying cognitive science and music at Yale University. She is interested in studying how animals cognize music in order to better understand the human evolution of music. At school, Brooke sings in and acts as the assistant conductor for the Yale Glee Club, is a teaching artist with the Morse Chorale youth choir, and conducts research at Yale's Canine Cognition Center.
Liam Crowley

Liam Crowley

Undergraduate Researcher
Liam Crowley is an undergraduate student majoring in psychology and philosophy at Victoria University of Wellington. 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.

primary collaborators

We are proud to work with many fantastic people in cognitive science, psychology, music, anthropology, linguistics, computer science, political science, and more. Click the images below to learn more about our collaborators!

Natural History of Song team

We work with many contributors and collaborators on the Natural History of Song project: learn more at naturalhistoryofsong.org.

alumni

Stephanie Atwood
Lab manager (2018-2019), currently a PhD student in Psychology at the Social Cognitive Development Lab (University of Washington)

Julie Youngers
Summer intern (2018), currently an MA student in Psychology at the Infant Studies Centre (University of British Columbia)

We've also been incredibly lucky to work with many fantastic research assistants, including Alma Bitran, Anna Bergson, Dara Lee, Dylan Xing, Emilė Radytė, Kamila Czachorowski, Kelsie Lopez, Lin Ni, Mona Miao, Nathan Robinson, Nivi Ravi, Terry Lee, TJ Song, and William Swett.

join

Thank you for your interest in working with us. We do not have any current openings for paid research assistants, but if you are interested in applying to work with us as a volunteer, please contact us at musiclab@g.harvard.edu.

Dr. Mehr is not currently accepting full-time graduate students, but if you are applying to graduate school and are interested in collaborating as a co-supervised graduate student (either at Harvard or at another university), please contact him at sam@wjh.harvard.edu.

Research at The Music Lab is made possible by the generous support of these organizations:

NIH
HDSI
Harvard FAS