Visit the Music Lab with your baby

Participate with your baby!

In the coming months we will be recruiting expecting parents and parents with babies for science research about infants and music.

You can participate from anywhere in the world! If you would like us to contact you when we have a study for you to participate in, sign up with your contact details below.

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 jointly at the University of Auckland (in New Zealand, as a part of the School of Psychology) and Yale University (in New Haven, as a part of the Yale Child Study Cnenter).

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

news

  • Our cross-cultural research on infant-directed speech and song was covered on the front page of the New York Times, on the TODAY show, and in many other spots worldwide.
  • We've moved — after 5 years at Harvard, we have transitioned our citizen-science platform to Yale University and our brick-and-mortar lab to the University of Auckland (New Zealand).
  • Our 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 on Twitter and Mastodon, where he often posts about being an academic dad.
Courtney Hilton

Courtney Hilton

Postdoc (Research Fellow)
Courtney began his career as a musician before accidentally becoming a scientist. He grew up in the rural Australian town of Gidgegannup, and studied at the Australian National University and the University of Sydney. After his PhD, he joined the lab as a postdoc at Harvard, then Yale, now at the University of Auckland. He otherwise makes music, art, cooks, does stuff in nature, and hangs out with his two cats Dave and Gidge.
Eun Cho

Eun Cho

Postdoc
Eun is a music educator specializing in early childhood music and a researcher, interested in interdisciplinary research that encompasses music, education, psychology, and culture. Since the completion of her DMA in music education (University of Southern California), she has been leading various research projects on the psychological aspects of everyday musical experiences in diverse populations. Aside from being an academic, she is a happily married mom with two kids, based in sunny California.
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.
Lidya Yurdum

Lidya Yurdum

Research Assistant
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.
Ekanem Ebinne

Ekanem Ebinne

Research Assistant
Ekanem is working on a project on infant-directed music and its relation to well-being in parents. She has an undergraduate degree in psychology from Rice University and graduate research experience in developmental music psychology at the New University of Lisbon, Portugal. As a classically trained singer she has enjoyed singing in cathedrals in the US and England. She has taught music for babies and young children of many language backgrounds in the US, UK, Portugal, and Sweden. In her free time she enjoys permaculture gardening and all things Portugal.
Mila Bertolo

Mila Bertolo

Graduate Student
Mila is a PhD student in Neuroscience at McGill University, working with Jon Sakata and Isabelle Peretz, and co-advised by Samuel Mehr. She works on questions about the origins of music, using tools from cross-cultural work, developmental psychology, and cross-species comparisons. You can follow her @mila_bertolo.
Marty Snarskis

Marty Snarskis

Graduate student
Marty (they/he) joined the University of Auckland PhD program in February 2023 -- they are working on The Natural History of Song project, a rich dataset with music from all over the world, as well studying social inferences in infants. They previously studied the computational neuroscience of decision-making and perception at the University of Rochester and, after graduating, managed a lab studying memory at the University of Chicago. Marty enjoys being eccentric, playing music and other arts, reading widely, and hugging trees!
Zoé Schelp

Zoé Schelp

Graduate Student
Zoé is a PhD student in psychology and cognitive neuroscience at the University of Auckland investigating anauralia, the inability to imagine sounds (a phenomenon like aphantasia, but for the ear). Her research is focusing on the effects of anauralia on verbal and non-verbal working memory. Outside of studies and teaching, she loves playing violin and guitar, reading, sewing and cooking/baking and winter sports.
Estelle Lai

Estelle Lai

Honours student
Estelle is an Honours student at the University of Auckland. She has a passion for psychology and music which has led her to join the Music Lab where she will be conducting research on the social implications of music. When she’s not studying, her interests outside of music include painting, reading, gaming and finding good places to eat.
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.

collaborators, past and present

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

alumni

Rachel Yan
Affiliated grad student (2020-2022), currently a PhD student in Psychology at the University of Michigan.

Jingxuan Liu
Affiliated grad student (2020-2023), currently a PhD student at Columbia University.

Cody Moser
Affiliated grad student (2018-2022), currently a PhD student in Cognitive and Information Sciences the University of California, Merced, working in the Smaldino Lab.

Liam Crowley
Honours student (2019-2021), currently a PhD student in Psychology at Victoria University of Wellington.

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

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 the University of California, Los Angeles, working with Greg Bryant.

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

join

If you are interested in PhD study in our lab, please contact Dr Mehr at mehr@hey.com with an expression of interest and a CV. We can support PhD applicants at the University of Auckland (in New Zealand) or at Yale, either in Psychology (if working jointly with a Psychology faculty member) or via the Child Study Center. Please note that funding for PhD study is competitive and may not be guaranteed, depending on the particulars of your application.

We do not currently have any open positions for full-time, salaried research assistants, but are able to host part-time RAs working in New Zealand or New Haven. If you are interested in such a position, for hourly pay; or if you would like to apply to work with us for academic credit (at the University of Auckland or at Yale) or work-study (at Yale), please contact us at musiclab@yale.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. Please get in touch with Dr. Mehr at mehr@hey.com if you are interested in applying.

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

NIH
RSNZ
HDSI
Harvard FAS