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Prof Ian Cross

Prof Ian Cross

Professor of Music & Science

[on leave]

Faculty of Music
11 West Road

Cambridge CB3 9DP
Office Phone: 01223 335185


Ian Cross is Professor of Music & Science and is a Fellow of Wolfson College, Cambridge. He is responsible for teaching science and music in the Faculty at Cambridge, where he is Director of the Faculty’s Centre for Music and Science (CMS). He is also a contributor to the University’s M.Phil in Film and Screen Studies. Publications include the books Musical Structure and Cognition (Academic Press, 1985) and Representing Musical Structure (Academic Press, 1991), both co-edited with Peter Howell and Robert West, the Oxford Handbook of Music Psychology (OUP, 2009; 2nd edition, 2016), co-edited with Susan Hallam and Michael Thaut, and Language and Music as Cognitive Systems (OUP, 2012), co-edited with Patrick Rebuschat, Martin Rorhmeier and John Hawkins.

He is a member of the Committee and a Trustee of the Society for Education, Music and Psychology Research (SEMPRE), and is a Governor, and Chair of the Research Committee, of the Music Therapy Charity. He is on the editorial advisory boards of numerous journals including Psychology of MusicMusic PerceptionAI & Society and The New Soundtrack, and from 1997 until 2000 was the Associate Editor (English language) of ESCOM’s journal Musicae Scientiae. Along with Professors Graham Welch and Adam Ockelford, he is Series Editor of Ashgate's SEMPRE Studies in the Psychology of Music, and he is Editor-in-Chief of SAGE's forthcoming online Open Access journal Music & Science.  He is also a guitarist.

Departments and Institutes

Wolfson College:
Professorial Fellow

Research Interests

Ian has undertaken wide-ranging research into many different aspects of music: experiments in music cognition have explored, amongst other issues, the processes underlying the experience of tonal and rhythmic structures; a collaborative Leverhulme Trust-funded project with Jim Woodhouse and Brian Moore in the Departments of Engineering and Psychology studied the perceptual correlates of violin acoustics; and projects in experimental archaeology have investigated the sound-producing potential of lithic artefacts and the possibility of their identification in the archaeological record.  He has also written extensively on the relationships between music and processes of evolution.

He has two main ongoing research projects, both of which are concerned to explore the dynamics and effects of music considered as an interactive process.  The first focuses on the exploration of the cognitive processes underlying spontaneous interaction in speech and music, with Sarah Hawkins, Cambridge, and Richard Ogden, University of York: for a recent paper with Juan Pablo Robledo, detailing some results, see  The project is being further developed to incorporate motion-capture data, in collaboration with Carlos Cornejo and his group in the Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile, Santiago.

The second project involves a full set of randomised controlled trials to explore potential relationships between musical group interaction and the development of the capacity for empathy in children, following up the results of Rabinowitch, Cross, & Burnard (2013).  It is being conducted with Tal-Chen Rabinowitch at ILABS, University of Washington, Seattle, funded by the Templeton Foundation (see the project website at Enhancing Empathy through Music). The project is ongoing, and preliminary results are due soon!

Key Publications

Selected publications since 2012:

(for a more complete list and access to preprints of papers and chapters, see


Hallam, S., Cross, I.  & Thaut, M. (Eds.) (2016) Oxford Handbook of Music Psychology, (2nd edition). Oxford, Oxford University Press

Rebuschat, P., Rohrmeier, M., Hawkins, J. & Cross, I. (Eds.) (2012) Language and music as cognitive systems. Oxford University Press

Journal editing

Franco, F., & Cross, I. (2012).  Empirical Musicology Review, 7 (1-2), special issue constituting proceedings of BPS seminar on "Language and music, meaning and entrainment", December 2012, Cambridge (see

Peer-reviewed papers

Bravo, F., Cross, I., Stamatakis, E. A., & Rohrmeier, M. (2017). Sensory cortical response to uncertainty and low salience during recognition of affective cues in musical intervals. PLoSONE, 12(4), e0175991.

Knight, S., Spiro, N., & Cross, I. (2016) Look, listen and learn: Exploring effects of passive entrainment on social judgements of observed others. Psychology of Music, 45(1), 99-115.

Woolhouse, M., Tidhar, D., and Cross, I. (2016) Effects on interpersonal memory of dancing in time with others.  Frontiers in Psychology, 7(167), 1-8. [doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2016.00167]

Woolhouse, M., Cross, I. & Horton, T. (2016) The cognition of non-adjacent harmonic relations. Psychology of Music, 44(4), 802-815.

Blake, E. & Cross, I. (2015) The acoustic and auditory contexts of human behavior. Current Anthropology, 56(1), 81-103.

Cross, I. (2014).  Music and communication in music psychology.  Psychology of Music, 42(6), 808-819.

Rohrmeier, M. A., & Cross, I. (2014). Modelling unsupervised online-learning of artificial grammars: Linking implicit and statistical learning. Consciousness & Cognition, 27c, 155-167.

Cross, I. (2013).  "Does not compute?": music as real-time communicative interaction. AI & Society, 28(4), 415-430.

Rohrmeier, M. & Cross, I. (2013). Artificial grammar learning of melody is constrained by melodic inconsistency: Narmour's principles affect melodic learning. PLosONE, 8(7), e66174.

Rabinowitch, T-C, Cross, I. & Burnard, P. (2013).  Long-term musical group interaction has a positive influence on empathy in children. Psychology of Music, 41(4), 484-498.

Cross, I. (2012). Cognitive science and the cultural nature of music. Topics in Cognitive Science, 4(4), 668-677.

Fritz, C., Blackwell, A. F., Cross, I., Woodhouse, J., & Moore, B.C.J. (2012). Exploring violin sound quality: investigating English timbre descriptors and correlating acoustical modifications with perceptual properties. Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, 131 (1), 783-794.

Chapters in books

Cross, I (2016) The nature of music and its evolution. In S. Hallam, I. Cross, and M. Thaut (Eds.) Oxford Handbook of Music Psychology , 2nd Edn, (pp 3-17), Oxford, Oxford University Press.

Cross, I. & Tolbert, E (2016) Music and meaning. In S. Hallam, I. Cross, and M. Thaut (Eds.) Oxford Handbook of Music Psychology, 2nd Edn, (pp 33-46), Oxford, Oxford University Press.

Stainsby, T. & Cross, I (2016) The perception of pitch. In S. Hallam, I. Cross, and M. Thaut (Eds.) Oxford Handbook of Music Psychology, 2nd Edn, (pp 63-79), Oxford, Oxford University Press.

Hallam, S., Thaut, M. & Cross, I. (2016) Where now? In S. Hallam, I. Cross, and M. Thaut (Eds.) Oxford Handbook of Music Psychology, 2nd Edn, (pp 905-913), Oxford, Oxford University Press.

Cross, I. (2015). Music, speech and meaning in interaction. In Christian Maeder & Mark Reybrouck (Eds.). Music, Analysis, Experience. New Perspectives in Musical Semiotics. (pp19-30) Leuven: Leuven University Press.

Hawkins, S., Cross, I., & Ogden, R. (2013). Communicative interaction in spontaneous music and speech. In M. Orwin, C. Howes & R. Kempson (Eds.), Music, language and interaction (pp285-329), London: College Publications.

Cross, I., Fitch, W. T., Aboitiz, F., Iriki, A., Jarvis, E. D., Lewis, J., Liebal, K., Merker, B., Stout, D., and Trehub, S. E. (2013). Culture and evolution.  In Michael Arbib (Ed.) Language, music and the brain, (pp541-562), Strüngmann Forum Reports, Vol. 10, Cambridge, MA, MIT Press.

Rabinowitch, T-C, Cross, I. & Burnard, P. (2012). Between Consciousnesses: Embodied Musical Intersubjectivity. In M. Reason & D. Reynolds (Eds.), Kinesthetic Empathy in Creative and Cultural Practices, (pp109-120), Intellect Press, Bristol.

Cross, I. (2012).  Music as an emergent exaptation.  In N. Bannan (Ed.) Music, language and human evolution (pp263-276), Oxford, Oxford University Press.

Cross, I., Laurence, F. & Rabinowitch, T-C. (2012) Empathy and creativity in group musical practices; towards a concept of empathic creativity. In G. MacPherson and G. Welch (Eds.) Oxford Handbook of Music Education, (pp337-353). Oxford, Oxford University Press.

Cross, I. (2012).  Music and biocultural evolution.  Rewritten chapter for second edition of M. Clayton, R. Middleton, T. Herbert (Eds.) The Cultural Study of Music: A Critical Introduction (pp17-27), London: Routledge.

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