About Vicky

Dr Victoria Williamson is an authority on the psychology of music; how music is processed by the brain and the ways in which music impacts on our minds and behaviours.

She is a Lecturer in Music Psychology at the University of Sheffield (UK) and author of ‘You Are The Music’ (Icon Books).

To date, she has published 25 peer reviewed research articles, 3 e-books, 4 chapters, as well as numerous public facing articles, presentations to worldwide universities, festivals, public groups, radio and TV programmes, and schools.


_P9U5014My academic story: I completed my psychology honours degree at the University of York (UK). For my dissertation I studied the effect of music on computer game performance. I gained an MA in the Psychology of Music at the University of Sheffield where I investigated music and driving behaviour, and music memory processes as a function of expertise.

In 2004 I was awarded a University of York PhD Studentship to study musical memory and the impacts of expertise on cognitive processing, with supervision from Profs. Alan Baddeley and Graham Hitch.

After my PhD I won an ESRC Fellowship to move to Goldsmiths, University of London where I studied memory function in congenital amusia (tone deafness). I also managed a British Academy grant entitled “What causes earworms?”

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

1265114_10153252070705722_947052628_oFrom 2013 -2014 I was Visiting Professor of Performance Science at the Hochschule Luzern (Switzerland). Luzern is a beautiful city and it was a pleasure to have the opportunity to work among the fine music performance researchers at the Hochschule Luzern – Musik. I am fortunate to be able to continue our collaboration from 2016-2019 through a Swiss National Science Foundation large grant, looking at the role of critical review in the modern classical music market.

From 2014 to 2017 I was the Vice Chancellor’s Fellow for Music at the University of Sheffield (UK). As part of my Fellowship I worked on a successful program of research focusing on the study of music and memory, and music in the medical humanities. In 2017 I was promoted to a full-time permanent Lectureship in Music Psychology.

From September 2014-2015 I held the awarded position of Visiting Fellow for the School of Advanced Study at the University of London. The SAS is the UK’s national centre for the facilitation and promotion of research in the humanities and social sciences.

Music and Wellbeing-lowresOn 5th May 2015 I launched a research unit at the University of Sheffield dedicated to studying ‘Music and Wellbeing‘, with a special interest in the processes and power of musical memory. The official launch was part of the University of Sheffield Arts and Humanities Festival and was lead by Professor Lord Robert Winston with support from Lost Chord and Nordoff Robbins. Videos of the launch, plus related Music & Wellbeing videos, can be viewed here on our YouTube channel.

From October to December 2015 I was based at the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, New York. This research visit was made possible by a grant from the WUN foundation. I collaborated with Professor Betsy Marvin on a study of music memory in absolute pitch. While in the US I also conducted a speaking tour, visiting colleagues in Bucknell, Buffalo, Tufts, Northwestern and Cornell.

Me and my 3 siblings

Vicky personal: I trained in classical guitar and still consider this to be my main instrument although I enjoy learning the basics of any and all instruments.

I spend my spare time cooking (I worked as a chef to pay for my university degrees), dancing (especially salsa. merengue and bachata), and reading biographies. I love to travel; I aim to visit as much of the world as possible in my allotted time.


Cheeky Lady Penelope

I live in York (UK) with my dear husband Oscar and my gorgeous baby girl Penelope, who was born in May 2017. York is a beautiful place  (this article proves my point). Our second home is Zaragoza in Spain, where Oscar was born (a stunning and little visited town)

My CV available for download here

Email: Contact Vicky using the Contact Us page


V.Williamson (2014) You Are The Music. How Music Reveals What it Means to be Human. Icon Books: UK.


V.Williamson (2014) Music and Neurosciences V: The Blogs. Free Publication: UK
V.Williamson (2013) SMPC2013: The Blogs. Free Publication: UK
V.Williamson (2012) ICMPC-ESCOM 12: The Blogs. Free publication: UK.

Book chapters

  • K. Schulze, S. Koelsch & V.Williamson (2017) Auditory working memory: Shared for speech and music? In Springer Handbook for Systematic Musicology
  • V.Williamson & K. Jakubowski (2014) Earworms. In Thompson, W. F. (Ed.). (2014). Music in the social and behavioral sciences: An encyclopedia. (Vols. 1-2). Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications.
  • V.Williamson & G. Floridou (2014) Episodic memory. In Thompson, W. F. (Ed.). (2014). Music in the social and behavioral sciences: An encyclopedia. (Vols. 1-2). Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications.
  • V. Williamson & L. Stewart (2013) Congenital Amusia. In The Handbook of Pediatric Neurology (Eds. O. Dulac, H. Sarnat, M. Lassonde). Elsevier.

Peer reviewed papers (25)

  • A. Halpern, J. Talarico., N, Gouda., V.Williamson (2017) Are musical autobiographical memories special? It ain’t necessarily so…Music Perception (IF = 1.75)
  • G. Floridou, V. Williamson & L. Stewart (2017). A novel indirect method for capturing involuntary musical imagery under varying cognitive load. Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology (IF = 2.13)
  • Tamminen, K. Rastle, J. Darby, R. Lucas, V. Williamson (2017). The impact of music on learning novel spoken words. Memory, 25(1):107-121 (IF = 1.69)
  • E. Alessandri, V. Williamson, H. Eiholzer, A. Williamon (2016). A critical ear: Analysis of value judgements in reviews of Beethoven’ s piano sonata recordings. Frontiers in Psychology: Performance Science doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2016.00391 (IF = 2.60)
  • E. Alessandri, V. Williamson, H. Eiholzer, A. Williamon (2016). A systematic method for mapping music critics’ judgements of recorded performances. Frontiers in Psychology: Performance Science. 6:57. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2015.00057 (IF = 2.60)
  • G. Floridou, V. Williamson, L. Stewart, & D. Müllensiefen (2015). Development and validation of the Involuntary Musical Imagery Scale (IMIS). Psychomusicology: Music, Mind and Brain, 25 (1), 48 – 67
  • G. Weir, V. Williamson & D. Müllensiefen (2015). Voluntary but not involuntary music mental activity is associated with more accurate musical imagery. Psychomusicology: Music, Mind and Brain, 25 (1), 28 – 45
  • 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. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2015.00009 (IF = 2.6)
  • N. Schaal, V. Williamson, M. Kelly, N. Muggleton & M. Bannisy (2015). Time-specific involvement of the left SMG during the retention of musical pitches. Cortex, 64, 310–317  (IF = 6.40)
  • 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 (IF = 8.31)
  • V. Williamson & S. R. Jilka (2014). Experiencing earworms: An interview study of Involuntary Musical Imagery. Psychology of Music, 42 (5), 653 – 670 (IF = 1.57)
  • H.J. Kang & V. Williamson (2014) Background music can facilitate second language learning. Psychology of Music, 42 (5), 728 – 747 (IF = 1.57)
  • D. Müllensiefen, J. Fry, R. Jones, S. R. Jilka, L. Stewart & V. Williamson (2014) Individual differences in spontaneous involuntary musical imagery. Music Perception, 31(4), 323-335 (IF = 1.75)
  • V.Williamson, L.A. Liikkanen., K. Jakubowski., & L. Stewart (2014) Sticky Tunes: How do people react to involuntary musical imagery? PLOS ONE, 9(1): e86170 (IF = 3.53)
  • N. Schaal, V. Williamson, & M.J. Bannisy (2013) Anodal transcranial direct current stimulation over the supramarginal gyrus facilitates pitch memory. European Journal of Neuroscience, 38, 3513-3518 (IF = 3.67)
  • D. Omigie, M. Pearce, V. Williamson & L. Stewart (2013) Electrophysiological correlates of melodic processing in congenital amusia. Neuropsychologia, 51(9), 1749-62 (IF = 3.45)
  • N. Schaal, V. Williamson, & M.J. Bannisy (2013) P 35. Investigating a causal role of the supramarginal gyrus for pitch memory using transcranial direct current stimulation. Clinical Neurophysiology, 124 (10), e80-e81 (IF = 2.98)
  • 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 (IF = 1.57)
  • 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 (IF = 3.45)
  • V.Williamson, G. Cocchini & L.Stewart (2011) The relationship between pitch and space in congenital amusia. Brain and Cognition, 76 (1), 70-76 (IF = 2.82)
  • V. Williamson & L. Stewart (2010) Memory for pitch in congenital amusia: Beyond a fine-grained pitch perception problem. Memory, 18(6), 657-669 (IF = 2.09)
  • 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 (IF = 1.57)
  • 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
  • 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 (IF = 1.92)
  • N. Dibben & V. Williamson (2007). An exploratory survey of in-vehicle music listening. Psychology of Music, 35 (4), 571-589 (IF = 1.57)

Conference proceedings

R. Timmers, N. Dibben, Z. Eitan, R. Granot, T. Metcalfe, A. Schiavio, & V. Williamson (Eds.) (2015) Proceedings of ICMEM (Sheffield: UK),

Conference papers

  • V. Williamson & J. Tamminen (2016) The impact of music on learning and consolidation of novel words. Beyond Language Learning Workshop. Barcelona, Spain (Poster)
  • V. Williamson, M. South & D. Müllensiefen (2014) Sound quality enhances the music listening experience. Proceedings of ICMPC13-ASCOM 5 (Seoul: South Korea),
  • G. Floridou, V. Williamson & D. Müllensiefen (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
  • V. Williamson & D. Müllensiefen (2012) Earworms from three angles. In E. Cambouropoulos, C, Tsougras, K. Mavromatis, K. Pastiadis (Eds) Proceedings of ICMPC-ESCOM 12 (Thessaloniki: Greece), 1124-1133
  • 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
  • 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 ICMPC9 (Bologna: Italy), 1581-1590

Articles for non-specialist audiences

  • V.Williamson (2016) How listening to music could help you beat insomnia. The Conversation
  • V. Williamson (2016) Music psychology insights for music education. Music Teacher Magazine
  • V Williamson (2016) What the world sounds like to a musical genius like David Bowie or Brian Wilson. The Independent
  • V.Williamson (2016) Was musical memory the secret to Brian Wilson’s genius? The Guardian
  • V.Williamson (2014) Music Forum Notes. The Psychologist, 27 (5), 303 (IF = 0.41)
  • V.Williamson (2014) You Are The Music. Science Uncovered Magazine
  • V.Williamson (2013 onwards) Various music psychology blog article for NME magazine
  • 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. European Journal of Psychology, 8(2), 217-221 (IF = 0.8)
  • V. Williamson (2009) In search of the language of music. The Psychologist, 22 (12), 1022-1025 (IF = 0.41)
  • V. Williamson (2006) Thank you for the music. The Psychologist, 19 (12), 743 (IF = 0.41)


2017 (3) – on maternity leave 

Music in human memory. Newland Lecture for the University of Hull (Hull) 

The power of music in memory. Invited speaker at the University of Edinburgh Music School (Edinburgh) 

The link between Music and Wellbeing. Invited Speaker at the Sheffield University Women’s Group (Sheffield)

2016 (16) 

Musicians in Medicine. Invited Speaker at the Arts and Medicine event at the Humanities Research Institute (Sheffield)

Why does music stick in my head? Invited Speaker at the University of Bath Research Seminar Series

Music for extraordinary health challenges. Invited Keynote Speaker at the University of the Third Age Annual Conference (Nottingham)

Conversations on Miss Sharon Jones. Invited speaker alongside Karen Garoby (BBC)at Sheffield DocFest

(2) More than a feeling? Music for everyday and extraordinary wellbeing challenges. Invited speaker at York Festival of Ideas (York) and Brain Can Do (London) Music and wellbeing.

Invited speaker at Care 2050 for the Arts and Humanities at The University of Sheffield than a feeling?

Invited speaker at ‘Is it all in the Mind?’ event at the Arts and Humanities Festival (TUOS)

Music & message in memory. Invited keynote at the symposium Transmission of Tunes and Tales in Amsterdam (Netherlands)

(2) Music and the memory triangle. Invited speaker for the seminar series at the Hull York Medical School and the University of Uppsala (Sweden)

Music & Wellbeing in Dementia. Keynote speaker for the Creative Dementia Arts Network Conference, University of Oxford

Music for language learning. Invited speaker series for Music, Mind and Brain at Goldsmiths, University of London

More than a feeling? Music for wellbeing challenges. Invited speaker series at the Centre for Global Health at The University of York

Conversations on ‘ Music & Wellbeing’ . Transmission Prize event at Foyles Bookshop London, Salon London

Music for everyday and extraordinary wellbeing challenges. Invited speaker series at the National Institute for Hearing Research, University of Nottingham

2015 (15)

Music and the memory triangle. Tufts University, Boston, USA

What is it like to have congenital amusia? Northwestern, Chicago, USA

Amusia: individual differences and impacts of music education. Music Cognition Group, University of Rochester, USA

Behaviour and brain basis of congenital amusia. Brain and Cognitive Sciences Group, University of Rochester, USA

Insights from congenital amusia. University of Sheffield Summer School

Music and the memory triangle. School of Advanced Study Seminar, London

The power of music in memory. Interactive presentation at the Also Festival, Warwickshire

Music and Memory. Staying Sharp Lecture at the Royal Society, London

Applied Music and Wellbeing. Northern Network for the Medical Humanities, Sheffield

Music Psychology: Past and Present. Salon North Harrogate Festival

Music and Wellbeing: Promise and Possibilities. 24 Hour Inspire 2015, Sheffield

Congential amusia: Insights from the musical mind. SMART, Amsterdam

Music, the mind, and ‘fanastia’. School of Advanced Study, Colombia University, New York USA

Music and wellbeing in dementia care. Ignite Imaginations, Sheffield

Why does music get stuck in my head? University of York Cognition and Learning meeting


Earworms – tunes that get stuck in the head: Stories, suspects and solutions. University of Winchester Psychology Invited Speaker Series.

Overlap in verbal and musical memory. Music in Mind group, Center for Functional Integrative Neuroscience: Aarhus, Denmark

Why do we get earworms? Conisborough College for the Oxford International Biomedical Centre

Music psychology methods. Edge Hill University Psychology Invited Speaker.

“The Imp of the Perverse” – Exploring earworms. University of Sheffield Invited Speaker.

Earworms – tunes that get stuck in the head: Stories, suspects and solutions. Royal Northern College of Music Research Forum and ‘Inner Voices’ workshop at the University of Durham

Conversations on ‘You Are The Music’. Orchestival Summer Music Festival, Somerset

Musical memory: Three tales of creation, survival and mischief. Music Talks Series at the Hochschule Luzern – Musik, Switzerland


Coping with earworms. University of Bangor and University of Toronto (Canada)

The music of memory. TEDMEDLive Imperial College

Music for positive wellbeing. University of East London

The which, who and what of earworms. University of Hertfordshire

The musical mind and congenital amusia. Brunel University

The which, who and what of earworms. University of Warwick


What is music psychology? University of Glamorgan

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,University of London.

Earworms from three angles. University of the Third Age: Aylesbury.

Earworms from three angles. Paper presented at the symposium ‘Involuntary Musical Imagery: Exploring Earworms’ (Convenor; V.Williamson) at the 12th International Conference on Music Perception and Cognition: July 2012.

Music of the hemispheres. Paper presented at King Edward VI Grammar School for the Oxford International Biomedical Centre: July 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

The musical mind: Insights from congenital amusia. Paper presented at 1) University of York External Speaker Series and 2) Midsomer Norton School for the Oxford International Biomedical Centre: February 2012

2011 and earlier

(2011) Harnessing the power of music for public health promotion. Paper presented at SEMPRE conference on Health and Wellbeing. Folkstone: September 2011

(2011) Why does music get stuck in our heads? Paper presented at Queen Marys ‘Four Summer Panels’ Series (May 2011), Westminster Psychology Seminar Series (November, 2011) and Edge Hill’s Psychology Seminar Series (December, 2011)

(2011) Pitch and space in congenital amusia. Paper presented at the Experimental Psychology Society London Meeting: January, 2011.

(2010). Musical memory: Insights from Congenital Amusia. Paper given at the 11th International Conference on Music Perception and Cognition. Seattle WA: Auguest 2010.

(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 Pychological Society. Stratford Upon Avon: April 2010.

(2009). Memory in Congenital Amusia. Paper presented at the British Association of Cognitive Neuroscience. London: September 23rd 2009.

(2009) Comparing verbal and musical memory: A tale of two paradigms. Paper presented at the Experimental Psychological Society York Meeting. July 9th 2009.

(2008) Memory for verbal and tonal sequences. Paper presented at the University College of London Institute for Child Health. December 10th, 2008

(2007) Musicians and nonmusicians short-term memory for music and language. Paper presented at ‘SEMPRE conference on Musical Experience and Behaviour’ (Sheffield University) October 19th, 2007.

(2007) Comparing memory for speech and music. Paper presented at ‘Language and Music as Cognitive Systems’ (LAMACS. Cambridge; UK) May 11-13, 2007