BCSC 260: Syllabus
Time & Location
Monday/Wednesday 9-10:15 AM EST, Fully online *for now*
Instructor: Dr. Elise Piazza (Brain & Cognitive Sciences Department)
Office hours, via Zoom (by appointment)
TA: Caitlin Fitzpatrick (
Office hours: Fridays, 1-2 PM EST, on Zoom
TA: Hanna Bove (
\Office hours: Tuesdays, 12:30-1:30 PM EST, on Zoom
TA: Max Morris (
Office hours: Wednesdays, 3-4 PM EST, on Zoom
TA: Ruby Zeng (
Office hours: Thursdays, 1-2 PM EST, on Zoom
Weekly recitation sessions (optional but recommended):
Mondays 1-2 PM EST (Ruby + Hanna) AND Fridays 3-4 PM EST (Caitlin + Max)
There are 2 weekly time slots to better accommodate your schedules. The recitation session will provide an opportunity to go over material that only pertains to a certain subset of students (e.g., experimental design/statistics), to review material, or for additional discussion of articles/videos as needed.
Slack will be the preferred mode of communication for the course. Each student will be added to the Slack account and can post questions and homework responses on the various channels. Please keep discussion on Slack supportive and positive!
Suggested (but Optional) Textbook
Thompson, W. F. (2015). Music, Thought, and Feeling: Understanding the Psychology of Music. 2nd edition; NY: Oxford University Press. (NOTE: PDFs of individual chapters will be posted on Blackboard under “Learning Modules → Readings (Thompson book)”)
Student Learning Objectives
Students who successfully complete this course will be able to:
- Describe ways that study of music cognition aids our understanding of human cognition and development more generally.
- Compare aspects of musical structure, as a cognitive system, with other systems such as language, visual pattern perception, and auditory scene analysis.
- Apply a basic understanding of theories of evolution, the physical properties of sound, principles of human development and learning, structure of the auditory system and brain, and theories of emotion, to the study of music.
- Understand the design of behavioral experiments, be able to critique experimental designs for confounds, draw conclusions from data presented in experimental studies, and extrapolate from these data ideas for future studies.
- Demonstrate this knowledge by comparing and contrasting published music-cognitive experiments that explore a single issue, writing a paper in APA style that explores and critiques their contents and findings.
Expectations for student participation
To optimize your learning, you will:
- Attend regularly and participate in discussions in class (through verbal + chat responses), on Slack, and in recitation sections
- Come prepared to class, having read and responded to the assigned materials on Slack before class
- Download and review lecture slides (optional). Slides will be posted in pdf form before class; videos and sound files are for in-class use only due to the size of the files. Recordings of the Zoom lectures will be posted before exams.
Course Requirements and Deadlines
- Three non-cumulative exams. Matching, fill-in-the-blank, short essay. These will be open-book. 2/14, 3/23, and 4/27, during class.
- Short paper critiquing experiment articles on a music-cognitive topic of your choice
Your paper should contextualize, summarize, compare, and critique the articles read. Number of articles: 2 for undergraduates; 4 for graduates. Length: 4-5 pages for undergrads; 6-8 pages for grads (+ title page and refs.).
Paper upload deadlines follow (upload directly to Blackboard):
Title & article list: Feb 28
Final paper due: April 13
(no late papers without grade penalty)
- Reflective homework assignments. You will be asked to read a series of articles, listed in the class schedule below. Articles will be posted on Blackboard (under “Readings”). For each reading, you should post 1 substantive comment and/or question about it on the Slack discussion channel, #hp-authors-date. Posts should include meaningful content about the article (not simply “it was great!”) You will also be expected to respond to at least 2 other students’ posts.
Assessing Your Learning
- Three “midterm” exams (non-cumulative, 20% each): 60%
- Paper proposal (title and list of articles, APA style): 5%
- Paper: article comparison and critique, topic of your choice (APA-style): 25%
- Reflective homework assignments: 10%
Grading Rubrics for Final Paper
Paper Stage 1: Project title & article list – Due 2/28
5 points: 1 for title; 2 for APA style; 2 for appropriate articles chosen.
- Decide on a general area you wish to research. Articles must come from scientific research journals (not books, not websites, not news media)
- Try Google Scholar → type keywords and “experiment.” Don’t pay for articles! Download the articles when you are on the UR campus (or VPN) so that the library’s subscription covers it.
- Read abstracts and find articles that seem appropriate, including at least one “extra” article in case we decide to eliminate one. Come up with a title for your project.
Paper Stage 2: Final paper (title page, abstract, body, reference list) – Due 4/13
25 points: 10 for accurate/cogent discussion of articles chosen, with critique or comparison; 10 for organization, intro/conclusion, clarity of writing; 5 for paper format, APA citations/references.
Your title page should also include this honor pledge: “I affirm that I have not given or received any unauthorized help on this assignment, and that this work is my own.”
APA-style citation format (don’t use anything different):
Schellenberg, E.G., & Trehub, S.E. (2003). Good pitch memory is widespread. Psychological Science, 14 (3), 262-266.
Levitin, D. J. (1999). Experimental design in psychoacoustic research. In P. Cook (Ed.), Music, cognition, and computerized sound (pp. 299-328). Cambridge: MIT Press.
Academic Honesty: The course Blackboard site has a section on academic honesty, including a PowerPoint presentation on the topic. Visit this website, especially the section on "Tips and Pitfalls" for advice.
You (and I) are bound by the policies on this site. Remember: cutting-and-pasting from an online article into your paper is a violation of academic honesty, as much as cheating on an exam. In describing experiments, you should paraphrase in your own words, rather than quote.
Learning Assistance: If you have a disability for which you may be requesting an academic accommodation, you are encouraged to contact both your instructor and the access coordinator for your school to establish eligibility for academic accommodations.