Music cognition

My research addresses mainly the perceptual and the cognitive processes that we apply when listening to music, and the relationship between the mental representation and the emotional import of music.  I ask: How do listeners perceive and understand the richness and the complexity of music?  How do they select which musical variables to attend to when listening to music? What are some of the variables that influence the cognitive meaning and the emotional significance that are attributed to music?

I research how expert musicians listen to music in real time.  I consider music to be a type of language, and I am interested in the psychological processes that are inherent in understanding it.  Part of my work investigates how the knowledge of music is acquired and integrated.  Specifically, I evaluate how classical musicians at various levels of expertise memorize their repertoire as a means to understand their mental representation of music.  I am writing a book on the cognition and the emotions of music (Oxford University Press).


My training as a classical pianist and my experience in teaching music led me to ask questions about the perception and the cognition of music.  Throughout my doctoral program at Columbia University I worked with Thomas Bever in cognitive psychology and psycholinguistics, and wrote my dissertation, The Effect of Musical Training on Cerebral Dominance, under his supervision.

I have served on the faculties of The Juilliard School, The Manhattan School of Music, and The City University of New York.  I have been a visiting professor at Universita' Degli Studi di Roma "La Sapienza", and a visiting scholar in this department.


Ed.D. Columbia University

Selected publications

Aiello, R. Memorizing piano music.  In J. Tafuri & G. McPherson (Eds.),      Problematiche di psicologia, pedagogia, e didattica  dell'apprendimento strumentale.  Bologna:  Universita' di Bologna, in press.

Aiello, R., Aaronson, D., & Demos, A. (2006).   Individual differences in music perception. In M. Baroni, A. Addessi, R. Caterina, & M. Costa      (Eds.),  Proceedings of the Ninth International Conference      on Music Perception and Cognition (pp. 1226-1232). Bologna: Universita' di Bologna.

Aiello, R. (2005). Using metacognitive strategies to learn classical music.  In C. Constantinou, D. Demetriou, A. Evagorou, M. Evagorou, A. Kofteros, M. Michael, Chr. Nicolaou, D. Papademetriou, & N. Papadouris (Eds.), Proceedings of the Eleventh Biennial Conference of the European Association for Research on Learning and Instruction (pp. 747-748).  Nicosia, Cyprus:  University of Cyprus.

Aiello, R., Aaronson, D., & Demos, A. (2004). Musicians' perception of musical      boundaries. In S. Lipscom, R. Ashley, R. Gjerdingen, & P.      Webster (Eds.), Proceedings of the Eighth International Conference on Music Perception and Cognition, (pp. 681-685).      Adelaide, Australia:  Casual Productions.

Aiello, R. (2003). The importance of metacognitive research in music.  In R. Kopiez, A. Lehmann, I. Wolther, & C. Wolf (Eds.), Proceedings of      the Fifth Triennial Conference of the European Society for the      Cognitive Sciences of Music (pp. 656-8).  Hanover: Hanover University.

Aiello, R., & Williamon, R. (2002).  Memory. In R. Parncutt, & G. McPherson (Eds.),  The science and psychology of music performance (pp. 167-181).  New York:  Oxford University Press.

Aiello, R. (2001).  Playing the piano by heart:  From behavior to cognition.  In      R. Zatorre & I. Peretz (Eds.), The biological foundations of      music.  Annals of the New York  Academy of Sciences, 930, 389-393.

Aiello, R. (2000).  Memorizing two piano pieces:  The recommendations of concert pianists. In C. Woods, G. Luck, R. Broachard, F. Seddon, & J. Sloboda (Eds.), Proceedings of the Sixth International Conference on Music Perception and Cognition.  Keele, UK:  Keele University Department of Psychology.

Aiello, R. (1999). The compositional process as a reflection of the mind.  Musical Behavior and Cognition. General Psychology--Psicologia      Generale, 3/4, 9-27.

Aiello, R. (1998).  Japanese translation of Musical perceptions,  R. Aiello (Ed.). New York: Oxford University Press, 1994.  Tokyo: Seishin  Shobo  (K. Ohgushi, translator).

Aiello, R., & Palij, M. (1996). Re-hearing music:  Musicians report less on a second hearing.  Proceedings of the Fourth International      Conference on Music Perception and Cognition (pp. 219-223). Montreal: McGill University.

Aiello, R. (Ed.). (1994).  Musical perceptions.  New York:  Oxford University Press.

Aiello, R. (1994). Music and language:  Parallels and contrasts.  In R. Aiello      (Ed.) Musical perceptions (pp. 40-63).   New York:  Oxford University Press.

Aiello, R. (1994). Can listening  to music  be experimentally studied?  In R. Aiello (Ed.) Musical perceptions (pp. 273-282).  New York:  Oxford University Press.

Aiello, R., Tanaka, J.S., & W. Winborne (1990). Listening  to  Mozart:  Perceptual differences  among musicians.  Journal  of Music Theory Pedagogy, 4 (2), 269-293.

Tan, N., Aiello, R., & Bever, T. (1981). Harmonic structure as  a  determinant  of melodic organization.  Memory  and  Cognition, 9 (5),  535-     539.

Aiello, R. (1978). Cerebral  dominance  for  the  perception  of  arpeggiated triads.   Journal  of  Research  in  Music  Education,      26 (4), 470-78.


Rita Aiello
Department of Psychology
6 Washington Place, room 158
New York, NY 10003