Graduation Year


Date of Submission


Document Type

Open Access Senior Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts



Reader 1

Alison Harris

Terms of Use & License Information

Terms of Use for work posted in Scholarship@Claremont.


Recent research has suggested that music may enhance or reduce cognitive interference, depending on whether it is tonally consonant or dissonant. Tonal consonance is often described as being pleasant and agreeable, while tonal dissonance is often described as being unpleasant and harsh. However, the exact cognitive mechanisms underlying these effects remain unclear. We hypothesize that tonal dissonance may increase cognitive interference through its effects on attentional cueing. We predict that (a) consonant musical chords are attentionally demanding, but (b) dissonant musical chords are more attentionally demanding than consonant musical chords. Using a Posner cueing task, a standard measure of attention capture, we measured the differential effects of consonant chords, dissonant chords, and no music on attentional cueing. Musical chords were presented binaurally at the same time as a visual cue which correctly predicted the spatial location of a subsequent target in 80% of trials. As in previous studies, valid cues led to faster response times (RTs) compared to invalid cues; however, contrary to our predictions, both consonant and dissonant music chords produced faster RTs compared to the no music condition. Although inconsistent with our hypotheses, these results support previous research on cross-modal cueing, which suggests that non-predictive auditory cues enhance the effectiveness of visual cues. Our study further demonstrates that this effect is not influenced by auditory qualities such as tonal consonance and dissonance, suggesting that previously reported cognitive interference effects for tonal dissonance may depend on high-level changes in mood and arousal.