Dr Victoria Williamson BSc, MA, PhD, FHEA

image of Victoria WilliamsonDepartment of Music
The University of Sheffield
Jessop Building
34 Leavygreave Road
S3 7RD

Tel: +44 (0) 114 222 0474

Email: v.williamson@sheffield.ac.uk


My research interests can be summarised by the term ‘Applied Music Psychology’. This means that I am keen to explore how music impacts on our behaviours, abilities, and brain responses, and to learn how we can best interact with music to support our activities in the real world.

I completed my degree in Psychology at the University of York (UK) in 2004, where I studied the effect of music on computer game performance. I then gained an MA in the Psychology of Music at the University of Sheffield where I investigated musical memory and the impact of music on driving behaviour. Finally, I was awarded a University of York Doctoral Studentship to study musical memory and the impacts of musical expertise on cognition, with Profs. Alan Baddeley and Graham Hitch.

I funded my university education by working as a professional music teacher (classical guitar), in both private homes and as a peripatetic teacher for North Yorkshire County Council. While completing my PhD I worked as an undergraduate teaching assistant in York and as a psychology research assistant at the University of Sheffield.

During my doctorate I qualified as an Associate at the Higher Education Academy and in 2012 I followed up with my professional teacher training and gained my PG Cert in the Management of Learning and Teaching from Goldsmiths, University of London.

In 2008 I completed my doctorate and won the ESRC Fellowship Award that allowed me to move to Goldsmiths and study memory function in people with congenital amusia (tone deafness). While there I also completed my own British Academy grant entitled “What causes earworms?” and was co-investigator on a British Academy grant investigating music and novel word learning.

I spent 2011-12 working as a lecturer and course co-director of the MSc in Music, Mind and Brain at Goldsmiths. From 2012-2013, I worked as a Leverhulme Research Associate on a project investigating potential causes and cures of earworms (tunes that get stuck in the head).

In 2013 I moved to Switzerland to work as Visiting Professor of Performance Science at the Hochschule Luzern – Musik, Lucerne University of Applied Science and Arts. In 2014 I began my role as Vice Chancellor’s Fellow for the Arts and Humanities (Music) at the University of Sheffield. From 2014-2015 I was the Visiting Fellow at the School of Advanced Study (University of London).

At present I have several ongoing research projects that explore my special interest, musical memory: how it develops, why it varies in different people, and how musical memories can help us in other areas of life. I also collaborate with music performance researchers to examine the nature and impact of classical music critical review.

In 2015 I launched a new research unit, Music & Wellbeing at The University of Sheffield. We work on multiple projects that address the role of music in response to both everyday (learning, memory) and extraordinary (physical and mental health, poverty) wellbeing challenges.

Examples of Music & Wellbeing projects include: 1) music interventions during residential dementia care, 2) music during cancer care, 3) the use of music to aid disturbed sleep, and 4) the effect of critical review on music consumers and musicians (funded by the Swiss National Science Foundation in collaboration with the Hochschule Luzern)

You can view the videos of the Music & Wellbeing launch night (2015) on this YouTube Channel

Research Interests

  • Music: Wellbeing, expertise, effects of background music, clinical and therapeutic uses
  • Cognitive Psychology: Memory, learning, mental imagery, and spontaneous cognitions

Current Projects

  • Music in dementia care - with Lost Chord (Helena Muller)
  • Music in MRI – with Kings College (Dr. Geoff Charles-Edwards) and Guys and St Thomas Hospital Trust
  • Music and performance review –with Hochschule Luzern Musik (Ms Elena Alessandri & Prof. Olivier Senn)
  • Music and novel word learning –with Royal Holloway (Dr. Jakke Tamminen)
  • Music and memory processing in the brain –with Heinrich-Heine-Universität Düsseldorf (Ms Nora Schaal) and Goldsmiths (Dr. Michael Banissy)
  • Music and memory expertise –with the University of York (Profs. Alan Baddeley & Graham Hitch)
  • Music and earworms - with Goldsmiths (Ms Georgina Floridou, Drs. Daniel Müllensiefen & Lauren Stewart)

Selected Grants and Awards

  • SNSF large research grant (Co-I) - £295,000 (2016-2019)
  • RIS IIKE grant - £24,535 (2015)
  • WUN Research Mobility Grant - £2,500 (2015)
  • EPS Small Grant - £2,500 (2015)
  • Vice Chancellors Fellowship, University of Sheffield - £10,000 (2013)
  • Gerry Farrell Travelling Scholarship - £1500 (2013)
  • Leverhulme grant (2nd author & named associate) - £250,000 (2012)
  • British Academy research grant (CI) - £7,324 (2012)
  • British Academy research grant - £7,492 (2010)
  • ESRC Postdoctoral Fellowship - £81,948 (2008)
  • Doctoral Studentship, University of York - £36,000 (2005)

Selected Publications


V.J. Williamson (2014) You Are The Music. Icon Books: UK

Selected Journal articles

J. Tamminen, K.Rastle, J. Darby, R.Lucas & V.Williamson (in press). The impact of music on learning novel words 

N. Schaal., Krause, V., Lange, K., Banissy, M.J., Williamson, V, & Pollok, B (2015). Pitch Memory in Nonmusicians and Musicians: Revealing Functional Differences Using Transcranial Direct Current Stimulation. Cerebral Cortex, 25(9), 2774-2782
E. Alessandri, V. Williamson, H. Eiholzer, A. Williamon (2015). A systematic method for mapping music critics’ judgements of recorded performances. Frontiers in Performance Science, 6:57.
J. Chen, S. Kumar, V. Williamson, J. Scholz, T. Griffiths, & L. Stewart (2015). Detection of the arcuate fasciculus is dependent on the tractography algorithm. Frontiers in Auditory Cognitive Neuroscience, 6: 9
H.J. Kang & V. Williamson (2014) Background music can facilitate second language learning. Psychology of Music, 42 (5), 728 – 747
V. Williamson & S. R. Jilka (2014) Experiencing earworms: An interview study of Involuntary Musical Imagery. Psychology of Music, 42(5), 653 – 670
V. Williamson, L. Liikkanen., K. Jakubowski., & L. Stewart (2014) Sticky Tunes: How do people react to involuntary musical imagery? PLOS ONE, 9(1): e86170
V.Williamson, S. Jilka, J. Fry, S. Finkel, D. Müllensiefen & L. Stewart (2012) How do earworms start? Classifying the everyday circumstances of Involuntary Musical Imagery (Earworms). Psychology of Music, 40 (3), 259-284
V.Williamson & L. Stewart (2010) Memory for pitch in congenital amusia: Beyond a fine-grained pitch perception problem. Memory, 18(6), 657-669
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


V.J. Williamson & K. Jakubowski (2015) Earworms. In Music in the Social and Behavioral Sciences (Ed. W. F. Thompson) Sage
V.J. Williamson & G. Floridou (2015) Episodic memory. In Music in the Social and Behavioral Sciences (Ed. W. F. Thompson) Sage
V.J. Williamson & L. Stewart (2013) Congenital Amusia. In The Handbook of Pediatric Neurology (Eds. O. Dulac, H. Sarnat, M. Lassonde). Elsevier

View a full list of Victoria Williamson’s publications
View the Music & Wellbeing research unit page