Professor Nicola Dibben BSc, MA, MEd, PhD, FHEA

Nikki Dibben imageDepartment of Music
The University of Sheffield
Jessop Building
34 Leavygreave Road
S3 7RD

Tel: +44 (0) 114 222 0480

Email :

Working hours: 9:30-15:00


I research and teach in the science and psychology of music, popular music studies and immersive media. My love of music was sparked by performing in musicals at primary school. My degrees at City University and the University of Sheffield introduced me to empirical methods to test ideas and make new discoveries.
From an initial focus on how listeners make sense (or not!) of tonal and early atonal music using laboratory-style experiments, my research broadened to look at emotion, meaning and subjectivity in music listening. My co-authored book Music and Mind in Everyday Life (2009) provides a critical discussion of psychological approaches to music. I was inspired to start writing about popular music while a lecturer at the University of Newcastle-upon-Tyne in 1996, by membership of the Critical Musicology forum (an informal association of British scholars interested in non-formalist approaches to music analysis), and a subsequent British Academy Postdoctoral Fellowship. I started investigating popular music’s role in the construction and experience of gender and identity, then constructions of nature, technology and landscape in popular music. These interests lead to a book on Icelandic musician Björk (Björk, 2009), resulting in collaboration on her ground-breaking app-album Biophilia (2011) – now part of the collection of the Museum of Modern Art, New York, and an educational program run by the Nordic Council.

Applying research in contexts where it can benefit others underpins the Music, Mind, Machine research center I co-directed (2012-18). Consultancies included working with Privilege Insurance to reveal influences of music on driving which received international media coverage, including features on Sky and BBC Breakfast News.

These experiences inform my teaching with undergraduate students (‘Introduction to Music Psychology’, ‘Music Psychology in Everyday Life’, ‘Contemporary Popular Music’), and on our three renowned Masters programmes in Psychology of Music. I like to teach using student-centered empirical projects because these mean students can pursue their particular interests, while also putting ideas and theories to the test through observations of the world. I have enjoyed teaching at other institutions, including a visiting professorship in Music at Karl-Franzens University, Graz, Austria.

I have supervised 15 doctoral students to successful completion, and taught over 200 Masters students as part of the teaching team for our innovative programmes in Psychology of Music. I took a Masters degree in education because I wanted to understand more about the theory and practice of teaching, including what could be done about socio-economic barriers to studying Music in the UK.
From September 2018 I will be Faculty Director of Research for Arts and Humanities where I will be building on my work as Director of the Humanities Research Institute (2015-17) to foster collaborative research and supporting colleagues in identifying and meeting our faculty research goals. In the wider academic community I help develop the disciplines of popular music and music psychology through numerous editing and conference activities, including previous journal editorships of Empirical Musicology Review and Popular Music, and as member of the REF2014 and REF2021 subpanels (Music, Drama, Dance, Performing Arts, Film and Screen Studies).

Research Interests

  • Science and psychology of music – including the influence of background music on human behaviour; music, meaning and emotion; music and sociability.
  • Musicology – including music and new media (contemporary popular music in relation to digitalization, immersive technologies, environmentalism and feminism); music listening and subjectivity.

Current Projects

  • Immersive Services for Driverless cars
  • Music and immersive new media (working title): a monograph about the impact of digitalisation, new media, smartphone apps, VR and AR, on popular music production and consumption, looked at through case studies including Biophilia, the first music album designed as an app for mobile devices.
  • Sounds Icelandic, eds. Nicola Dibben, Þorbjörg Daphne Hall, Árni Heimir Ingólfsson, Tony Mitchell, (Equinox). Edited book on Icelandic music.
  • Buliding capability in the social impacts of music-making in Colombia.

Selected Research Grants and Awards

  • Fostering social cohesion thorugh culture: a network to build capability in the social impacts of making music (CI): Academy of Medical Sciences GCRF Network, £22,558.
  • Immersive services for driverless cars, HEFCE Industrial Strategy Fund, £25,000.
  • The Music of Björk (2006): AHRC Research Leave Scheme, £35,816.
  • Music in working environments (2005): AHRC Small Research Grant, £5,000.
  • The influence of socio-economic background on teaching and learning in music in British Higher Education: PALATINE (LTSN subject centre), £3,000.


  • Clarke EF, Dibben N & Pitts S (2009) Music and mind in everyday life. Oxford: Oxford University Press. RIS download Bibtex download
  • Dibben N (2009) Björk. Indiana University Press. RIS download Bibtex download

Journal articles


  • Dibben N (2017) Music and Environmentalism in Iceland In Holt F & Kärjä A-V (Ed.), The Oxford Handbook of Popular Music in the Nordic Countries Oxford: Oxford University Press. View this article in WRRO RIS download Bibtex download
  • Dibben N (2017) Music as Enabling: Enhancing Sport, Work, and Other Pursuits In Ashley R & Timmers R (Ed.), The Routledge Companion to Music Cognition (pp. 377-388). RIS download Bibtex download
  • Dibben N (2014) Visualising the App Album with Björk's Biophilia In Vernallis C, Herzog A & Richardson J (Ed.), The Oxford Handbook of Sound and Image in Digital Media (pp. 682-706). Oxford: Oxford University Press. View this article in WRRO RIS download Bibtex download
  • Dibben N (2012) The Intimate Singing Voice: Auditory Spatial Perception and Emotion in Pop Recordings In Zakharine D & Meise N (Ed.), Electrified Voices Medial, Socio-Historical and Cultural Aspects of Voice Transfer (pp. 107-122). V&R unipress GmbH RIS download Bibtex download
  • Dibben N & Cook N (2001) Musicological approaches to emotion In Juslin PN & Sloboda J (Ed.), Music and emotion (pp. 45-70). Oxford University Press RIS download Bibtex download
  • Dibben N & Haake AB () Music and the construction of space in office-based work settings, Music, Sound and Space (pp. 151-168). Cambridge University Press RIS download Bibtex download