Leverhulme Research Fellow
+44 (0)20 7078 5465
Victoria Williamson completed her first degree in Psychology at the University of York in 2004. For her dissertation she studied the effect of background music on computer game performance. She gained an MA in the Psychology of Music at Sheffield University. In 2005 she was awarded a University of York Fellowship and went on to complete a PhD with Profs. Alan Baddeley and Graham Hitch investigating the role of music in the working memory model.
She won an ESRC Fellowship in 2008 allowing her to move to Goldsmiths, University of London to study the short-term memory abilities of individuals with congenital amusia. From 2011-2012 she worked as a temporary lecturer and co-director on the MSc in Music, Mind and Brain and a strategic concordat researcher development officer.
She is currently a Leverhulme postdoctoral research fellow (working on the earworm project),
Please visit my blog! music psychology UK
Psychological Approaches to Music, Cognitive Psychology, Statistics, Cognitive Neuroscience of Music, Research Skills
2011: ‘How Musical Are You?’ exhibition at the British Science Festival ‘Senses Night’.
2012 Leverhulme Grant (contributing author & named postdoctoral fellow - £250,000)
2012 British Academy research grant (CI: £7324)
2012 British Psychological Society bursary (£300); Brain bursary (£500)
2012 Higher Education Academy (£1,500); ESRC DTC seminar funding (£225)
2011 SCONET bursary (£200)
2010 British Academy research grant (£7,492)
2010 British Academy grant and Guarantors of Brain grant (£1300)
2008 ESRC Postdoctoral Fellowship (£81,948)
2005-2008 University of York Teaching Studentship (£36,000)
Online lecture about music and memory (free access)
Review of HEA Teaching and Learning event organised by Dr Williamson in 2012
Website for earworm symposium to be chaired by Dr Williamson as part of the 12th International Conference on Music Perception and Cognition (2012)
2013: Interview in the Sunday Telegraph on earworms
2013: Interview for National Radio New Zealand about earworms
2012: Interview on ITV 'Daybreak' about memory expertise
2012: BBC Breakfast news VT on music in the workplace. Live interviews broadcast on BBC
Scotland, BBC London, BBC Shropshire, BBC Coventry and Warwickshire, and Clyde1.
2012: BBC news coverage of earworm study (Williamson et al. 2011)
Please visit my media page for more details
2012: A montage of many radio interviews about earworms (thanks to Henkjan Honing)
2012: Earworm study covered on National Public Radio (NPR) in the USA
V.Williamson (2013) The music of memory. TEDMEDLive Imperial College London
V.Williamson (2013) Music for positive wellbeing. University of East London
V.Williamson (2013) The musical mind and congenital amusia. Brunel University
V.Williamson (2013) The which, who and what of earworms. University of Warwick and University of Hertfordshire
V.Williamson (2012) What is music psychology? University of Glamorgan
V.Williamson (2012) The musical mind as revealed through congenital amusia. Institute of Philosophy's Centre for the Study of the Senses at the School of Advanced Study.
V.Williamson & D.Mullensiefen (2012) Earworms from three angles. ICMPC-ESCOM 12: Thessaloniki, Greece: July 2012
V.Williamson (2012) Music of the hemispheres. King Edward VI Grammar School for the Oxford International Biomedical Centre: July 2012
V.Williamson (2012) Why do tunes get stuck in our heads? Paper presented at the Music in Mind group, Center for Functional Integrative Neuroscience: Aarhus, Denmark: April 2012
V.Williamson (2012) The musical mind: Insights from congenital amusia. Paper presented at 1) University of York Speaker Series and 2) Midsomer Norton for the Oxford International Biomedical Centre
V.Williamson (2011) Why does music get stuck in our heads? Paper presented at Queen Marys 'Four Summer Panels' Series (London: May), Westminster Psychology Seminar Series (November), and Edge Hill University Psychology Seminar Series (December)
V.Williamson (2011) Harnessing the power of music for public health promotion. Paper presented at SEMPRE conference on Health and Wellbeing. Folkstone: September 2011
V. Williamson, G. Cocchini & L.Stewart (2011). Pitch and space in congenital amusia. Paper presented at the Experimental Psychology Society London Meeting: January, 2011.
V.Williamson (2010). Harnessing the power of music: From safe driving to smoking cessation. Paper presented at the Department of Epidemiology and Public Heath, University College London: November, 2010.
V.Williamson & L.Stewart (2010). Musical memory: Insights from congenital amusia. Paper given at the 11th International Conference on Music Perception and Cognition. Seattle WA: August, 2010.
V. Williamson & L. Stewart (2010). Memory in congenital amusia: Beyond a fine-grained pitch discrimination problem. Paper presented at the Experimental Psychological Society, London: January 6th 2010 and the British Psychological Society, Stratford Upon Avon: April, 2010.
V. Williamson & L. Stewart (2009). Memory in congenital amusia. Paper presented at the British Association of Cognitive Neuroscience. London: September, 2009.
V. Williamson, G. Hitch & A. Baddeley (2009) Comparing verbal and musical memory: A tale of two paradigms. Paper presented at the Experimental Psychological Society York Meeting. July, 2009.
V. Williamson, A. Baddeley & G. Hitch (2008) Memory for verbal and tonal sequences. Paper presented at the University College of London Institute for Child Health. December 10th, 2008
V.Williamson, G. Cocchini & L.Stewart (2011) Pitch and space in congenital amusia. Poster presented at ‘Music and Neuroscience IV’. Edinburgh, UK: June 2011.
V.Williamson, C.McDonald, D.Deutsch, T.Griffiths & L.Stewart (2010) Faster decline of pitch memory over time in congenital amusia. Poster presented at the 11th International Conference on Music Perception and Cognition. Seattle WA: Auguest 2010.
V. Williamson, G. Hitch & A. Baddeley (2009) Comparing verbal and tonal memory: A tale of two paradigms. Poster presented at the Annual Meeting of the British Psychological Society, April, 2009
V. Williamson, A. Baddeley & G. Hitch (2009) Verbal vs. tonal memory: Sequence length and serial position effects. Poster presented at Experimental Psychological Society London Meeting, January, 2009
V. Williamson, A. Baddeley & G. Hitch (2008) Does articulatory suppression affect memory for tones? Poster presented at Psychonomics Annual Meeting in Chicago, November, 2008.
My central research interests are in cognitive psychology; I use music as a tool and a lense through which to explore fundamental aspects of the human mental experience. My primary research papers are in the psychology of memory and mental imagery. I also have a growing interest in how these fundamental cognitive abilities can be stimulated with music in order to boost well being, social and emotional development, and facilitate learning.
Memory and mental imagery
My current research post explores the ‘tune in the head’ phenomenon, otherwise known as 'earworms', an every day experience that is both vivid and prevalent. Earworms are valuable hallmarks of our inner mental life, yet they have been typically regarded as beyond the reach of scientific investigation. Building on pilot work carried out in collaboration with the BBC radio station, 6 music, my current project applies a combination of experimental psychology, computational and cognitive neuroscience approaches to address fundamental questions concerning the content, possible function and neurobiological origins of spontaneous musical imagery in order to formulate a causal model of this most prevalent form of spontaneous, involuntary cognition.
In the past I have also explored verbal, visual and musical memory function in individuals with congential amusia (more commonly refered to as tone deafness). Another recent MMB masters project used tDCS to explore the role of the supramarginal gyrus in memory for melody, using my memory tasks.
Another ongoing reserach interest of mine is the impact of musical expertise on memory function. During my PhD and first postdoc grant I developed two new behavioural paradigms that allow the measurement of musical memory in nonmusicians as well as musicians. Using these tasks I have compared working memory function in musicians and nonmusicians. At present I am running a collaboration with Professors Alan Baddeley and Graham Hitch, along with a number of our MMB masters students to explore wider memory function in musical experts, including an extension of our previous studies in working memory and a large memory study of musicians.
A new project for 2012 sees a collaboration with the Radiology Department at St Thomas Hospital in London, who are keen to explore the impact of music in various scanning environments for both adults and children. The aim of the project, which is in the early stages, is to develop clinically relevant and translational advice that can direct and maximise the positive impacts of music during medical procedures.
Social and emotional development
A recent new collaboration with the childrens pre-school education classes 'Jo Jingles'. This project explores the impact of music classes for young children on their social and emotional development, and examines parental understanding and motivation related to these classes.
There is growing evidence that music can play a role in supporting learning, especially language learning. I have been involved in two studies that have explored this area. The first was a collaborative study with Earworms Learning MBT and Hi Jee Kang (MSc). We tested the impact of specially composed music on second language learning in adults using an ecologically valid two week learning trial. We found that music supported and enhanced aspects of learning, as well as boosting enjoyment and sense of achievement. The second research project is a recent British Academy funded collaboration with Dr Jakke Tamminen (Royal Holloway). We are interested in the impact on melody on novel word learning and memory consolidation.
Number of Items: 22
H.J. Kang & V. Williamson (in press) Background music can facilitate second language learning. Psychology of Music
V. Williamson & S. R. Jilka (in press). Experiencing earworms: An interview study of Involuntary Musical Imagery. Psychology of Music
V. Williamson & L. Stewart (2013) Congenital Amusia. In The Handbook of Paediatric Neurology (Eds. O. Dulac, H. Sarnat, M. Lassonde). Elsevier.
V.Williamson (2012) ICMPC-ESCOM 12 e-book. An e-book containing all the blogs written at ICMPC-ESCOM 12. Free Publication.
H.J Kang & V. Williamson (2012)The effect of background music on second language learning. In E. Cambouropoulos, C, Tsougras, K. Mavromatis, K. Pastiadis (Eds) Proceedings of ICMPC-ESCOM 12 (Thessaloniki: Greece), 516-518. Link to Kang & Williamson (2012)
V. Williamson & D. Mullensiefen (2012) Earworms from three angles. In E. Cambouropoulos, C, Tsougras, K. Mavromatis, K. Pastiadis (Eds) Proceedings of ICMPC-ESCOM 12 (Thessaloniki: Greece), 1124-1133 Link to Williamson & Mullensiefen (2012)
G. Floridou, V. Williamson & D. Mullensiefen (2012) Contracting earworms: The roles of personality and musicality. In E. Cambouropoulos, C, Tsougras, K. Mavromatis, K. Pastiadis (Eds) Proceedings of ICMPC-ESCOM 12(Thessaloniki: Greece), 302-310. Link to Floridou, Williamson & Mullensiefen (2012)
V. Williamson, F.Liu, G.Peryer, M.Greierson, & L.Stewart (2012) Perception and action de-coupling in congenital amusia: Sensitivity to task demands. Neuropsychologia, 50(1), 172-180 link to abstract
V. Williamson, S. Jilka, J. Fry, S. Finkel, D. Mullensiefen & L. Stewart (2011) How do earworms start? Classifying the everyday circumstances of Involuntary Musical Imagery (Earworms). Psychology of Music, 40(3), 259-284 - link to abstract
V.Williamson, G. Cocchini & L.Stewart (2011) The relationship between pitch and space in congenital amusia. Brain and Cognition, 76 (1), 70-76 - link to abstract
V. Williamson & L. Stewart (2010) Memory for pitch in congenital amusia: Beyond a fine-grained pitch perception problem. Memory, 18(6), 657-669. – link to abstract
V. Williamson., T. Mitchell., G. Hitch., & A. Baddeley (2010) Musicians’ memory for language and music in conditions of irrelevant sound. Psychology of Music, 38(3), 331- 351 - link to paper
V. Williamson, C. McDonald, D. Deutsch, T. Griffiths & L. Stewart (2010) Faster decline of pitch memory over time in congenital amusia. Advances in Cognitive Psychology, 6, 15-22. - link to paper
V. Williamson, A. Baddeley & G. Hitch (2010) Musicians’ and nonmusicians’ short-term memory for verbal and musical sequences: Comparing phonological similarity and pitch proximity. Memory and Cognition, 38(2), 163-175 - link to paper
N. Dibben & V. Williamson (2007). An exploratory survey of in-vehicle music listening. Psychology of Music, 35 (4), 571-589 - link to paper
V. Williamson, A. Baddeley, & G. Hitch (2006) Music in the working memory model? In M. Baroni, A. R. Addessi, R. Caterina, M. Costa (Eds) Proceedings of the ICMPC9 (Bologna: Italy) pp. 1581-1590. link to paper
Bauer, K., Müllensiefen, D. & Williamson, V. (2013). Examining earworms: The psychology of involuntary musical imagery, BIOspektrum [German].
R.Worth & V.Williamson (2012) Music to our ears. Europe's Journal of Psychology, 8(2), 217-221 Link to paper.
V. Williamson (2009) In search of the language of music. The Psychologist, 22 (12), 1022-1025
V. Williamson (2006) Thank you for the music. The Psychologist, 19 (12), 743
V. Williamson (2010) Memory Rehabilitation: Integrating Theory and Practice (Barbara A. Wilson) New York: The Guilford Press, 2009. The Psychologist, 23(2), 127.
V.Williamson (2009) Music, Thought, and Feeling: Understanding the Psychology of Music (W. F. Thompson). Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008. Psychology of Music, 37, 371-374 - link to paper
Goldsmiths, University of London, New Cross, London, SE14 6NW, UK
Telephone: + 44 (0)20 7919 7171
Goldsmiths has charitable status