Evaluation of memory-based listening experiments

Evaluation of memory-based listening experiments

Website MCG@UvA

[See https://www.mcg.uva.nl/stages.html]

This project is part of a series of pilot studies that will contribute to an interdisciplinary research agenda on musicality (Honing, 2018). The main aim is to develop engaging listening games that allow for, in potential, the hundreds of thousands of responses that are needed to be able to properly characterize musicality phenotypes, and their variability, in a variety of geographical regions with ready access to the internet.

The main task is to explore, formalize and/or evaluate several memory game designs for probing music cognition, games that could be effective in probing the underlying phenotype (e.g, relative pitch, contour perception), its variability, as well as being intrinsically motivating (Burgoyne et al., 2013; Honing, 2021). An example is Memory or the Matching Pairs game. For this, several variants could be explored and evaluated, as well as applying the proper statistical methods to analyse the results.

The simplest version of the Matching Pairs game (MP1) is much like Memory, the card-game most children love to play. In this version, two melodies have to be judged as being the same, in a context of several competing alternatives. Note that this game variant has to make use of a ‘gold standard’ to be able to rate a response as correct (or not). As such, the game is only indirectly able to reveal the variability that we are interested in.

Hence, a variant of the game (MP2) will be ‘subjective’, without being forced to decide beforehand what is a correct response. This allows for exploring the underlying regularities that the ‘objective’ version has to ignore (e.g., to avoid the Western notion that two melodies are different because one of the pitches is different). In the ‘subjective’ version items can be similar in different aspects. As such, more than one pair might be correct. Instead of ‘correctness’, we will use alternative rating measures to be able to give feedback to the player, using, for example, internal consistency or some form of peer-judgement. The responses will reveal which aspects of the musical signal are more prominent, salient or easier to remember in the context of several alternatives.

The final variant of the game (MP3) will dynamically adapt to the level of the player, resulting in a robust and, in terms of duration of the experiment, efficient game useful for probing musicality on a large-scale. It will adjust the quality of the stimuli and the difficulty of the game, depending on how well the player performs. This variant will introduce some additional challenges to the design of the game, as well as the psychometric analyses of the results (e.g. Harrison et al, 2017).

In summary, the student will work, in collaboration with, and supervised by members of MCG, on an ambitious project aiming to tease apart the components of musicality (See [1] for further information on the research context). The project will lead to a Master thesis.

BSc in Brain and Cognitive Sciences, Psychometrics or related field;
Familiar with R, Python and/or statistics software;
Interest in music cognition.


Burgoyne, J. A., Bountouridis, D., Balen, J. van, & Honing, H. (2013). Hooked: A Game For Discovering What Makes Music Catchy. In A. De Souza Britto, F. Gouyon, & S. Dixon (Eds.), ISMIR (pp. 245–250). Curitiba, Brazil.
Eerola, T., Armitage, J., Lavan, N., & Knight, S. (2021). Online Data Collection in Auditory Perception and Cognition Research: Recruitment, Testing, Data Quality and Ethical Considerations. Auditory Perception & Cognition, 1–30. doi: 10.1080/25742442.2021.2007718
Harrison, P. M. C., Collins, T., & Müllensiefen, D. (2017). Applying modern psychometric techniques to melodic discrimination testing: Item response theory, computerised adaptive testing, and automatic item generation. Scientific Reports, 7(1), 1–18. doi: 10.1038/s41598-017-03586-z
Honing, H. (2018). The Origins of Musicality. Cambridge, Mass.: The MIT Press.
Honing, H. (2021). Lured into listening: Engaging games as an alternative to reward-based crowdsourcing in music research. Zeitschrift für Psychologie, 229(4). doi: 10.1027/2151-2604/a000474 [PsyArXiv]

To apply for this job email your details to honing@uva.nl