My doctoral research primarily focused on how listeners perceive harmonic sounds -- sounds said to have 'pitch'. I found that listeners use different, context-dependent representations to make judgments about harmonic sounds. For example, representations used to remember harmonic sounds differ in format from those used for real-time discrimination of such sounds, and listeners likewise appear to rely on different representations in noisy versus quiet environments. I also conduct cross-cultural research. A recent project examined the universality of musical consonance and dissonance perception and preference in the Tsimane', an indigenous population in Bolivia.

Demos of Key Results

Video Abstracts

McPherson, M. J., & McDermott, J. H. (2020). Time-dependent discrimination advantages for harmonic sounds suggest efficient coding for memory. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 117(50), 32169-32180.

McPherson, M. J., Dolan, S. E., Durango, A., Ossandon, T., Vald├ęs, J., Undurraga, E. A., ... & McDermott, J. H. (2020). Perceptual fusion of musical notes by native Amazonians suggests universal representations of musical intervals. Nature communications, 11(1), 1-14.

McPherson, M. J., & McDermott, J. H. (2018). Diversity in pitch perception revealed by task dependence. Nature Human Behaviour , 2(1), 52-66.