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Dr Kelly Jakubowski

Associate Professor of Music Psychology

Associate Professor of Music Psychology in the Department of Music


Kelly Jakubowski is an Associate Professor in Music Psychology. Her research examines a range of topics within music psychology and empirical musicology, including memory for music, music-evoked autobiographical memory, musical imagery and imagination, earworms, absolute pitch, musical timing and movement, and cross-cultural music perception. Together with Professor Tuomas Eerola, she co-leads Durham’s Music and Science Lab, an interdisciplinary research group united by interests in empirical, computational, and biological approaches to understanding music listening and music making. She is Co-Director of Durham's Centre for Research into Inner Experience.

Kelly studied Music Performance (violin) and Music Theory for her undergraduate (Baldwin Wallace University, USA) and Masters degrees (Ohio State University, USA), followed by an MSc and PhD in music psychology at Goldsmiths, University of London. Her PhD research (funded by the Leverhulme Trust) focused on developing new behavioural and computational methods for studying musical imagery and involuntary memory for music (including the phenomenon of having an “earworm”, or tune stuck in one’s head). In 2015, she was awarded the Hickman Early Career Researcher Award for her PhD research, which included a plenary session at the European Society for the Cognitive Sciences of Music (ESCOM) conference in Manchester, UK. Subsequently, she held posts as a Teaching Fellow in Psychology at Goldsmiths, University of London, Visiting Lecturer in Music at King’s College London, and Postdoctoral Research Associate in Music at Durham (AHRC-funded “Interpersonal Entrainment in Music Performance” project).

In 2018, Kelly was awarded a Leverhulme Early Career Fellowship for a 3-year project entitled “Prevalence, features, and retrieval of music-evoked autobiographical memories”. This project used multiple methodologies (online surveys, diary studies, experiments) for collecting a large and diverse dataset of lifetime memories triggered by listening to music,  enabling a more systematic understanding of the conditions under which these memories occur and expanding theoretical accounts of the interactions between music, memory, and emotions.

From 2023-24 she was Co-Investigator on the AHRC-funded project "Accelerating embedded computational analysis of Web data about music in UK universities", which served to develop a new digital skills training programme (comprising workshops and online resources) for music researchers for working with Web data (PI: Eamonn Bell, Durham).

From 2024-26, Kelly is Principal Investigator on a Leverhulme Trust research project grant entitled "Using music to investigate perceptual and cognitive constraints on imagination". The aim of this project is to develop a comprehensive typology and unifying framework for music-evoked imaginings, underpinned by experiments testing how features of both the music and the listener constrain these imaginings.

She is also Co-Investigator (2024-26) on an AHRC Networking Grant on Inner Music and Wellbeing (PI: Freya Bailes, Leeds).

Kelly currently serves on the Editorial Board for the journals Musicae Scientiae, Music & Science, and Empirical Musicology Review. She has previously served as Advisor to the Executive Committee of the SysMus conference series.

Kelly is committed to public research dissemination and engagement with non-academic audiences. Her work has been featured in a wide range of news outlets including The New York Times, the Guardian, The Wall Street Journal, The Times, The One Show, a BBC 4 documentary, and a range of national and international radio programmes. She regularly writes for outlets including Psychology Today and The Conversation.

Research interests

  • Music and memory
  • Musical imagery
  • Musical timing, rhythm, and movement
  • Absolute pitch
  • Cross-cultural music research


Chapter in book

Journal Article

Supervision students