Perceptions of Musical Time

Michelle Phillips‘ project consisted of a nine-week residency at the Science Museum, London, where museum visitors were given the opportunity to participate in an experiment on ‘Music and the Mind’.

The 866 participants spent 10-15 minutes listening to a piece of music, and then answering questions regarding its duration, their responses to it (enjoyment, familiarity, sense of completeness), and their personal characteristics (level of musical training, musical preferences, age, nationality).

The data contributed valuable insight into the wider area of investigation that is the effect of music on sense of elapsed duration. For example, those who enjoyed the musical extract more gave longer estimates of its duration.

Edinburgh Science Festival Nov 2013 2

Also giving visitors a list to remember whilst listening shortened estimates, and varying the music in volume lengthened such. Such findings are in line with, but also partly contradictory to, currently held theories regarding psychological time. Results are currently in preparation for publication and have been presented at a number of conferences.

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