Time to Decide

Time to decide
Time to Decide investigates how musicians and audiences determine what separates a good performance from a great one.

Every musical performance has an audience, and every audience makes decisions about what they see and hear. Whether these are concertgoers deciding on coming back next season, teachers assessing the progress of their students, or jurors determining the winner of an international competition, these decisions play a critical role in the development of any aspiring professional musician. Previous research has questioned the consistency of these judgements, demonstrating how the order of performances or even a performer’s apparel can affect outcomes. How these biases translate to the concert hall remains unclear.

Time to Decide examines how musical decisions are made by listeners in real performance settings, from the cognitive processes that underpin them to the environmental factors that affect them. Through experimental designs involving carefully manipulated videos to surveys of hundreds of audience members at live concerts, the project is uncovering when people’s first instinctual reactions are formed, when they change, when they are finalised, and what factors influence them.

Through this research, musicians are learning to anticipate the expectations of their audiences and evaluators. They are also able to refine their own skills as assessors using a newly developed Evaluation Simulator which, drawing on CPS research into Experiential Learning, places users in the seat of a competition judge. With support of the Arts and Humanities Research Council and the Peter Sowerby Foundation, the Evaluation Simulator was debuted at the 2015 Cheltenham Music Festival.

Time to Decide is run by the Centre for Performance Science.

Project outputs

Thompson S, Williamon A, & Valentine E (2007), Time-dependent characteristics of performance evaluation, Music Perception25, 13-29 [DOI].

Waddell G & Williamon A (2017), Eye of the beholder: stage entrance behavior and facial expression affect continuous quality ratings in music performance, Frontiers in Psychology8 (513), 1-14 [DOI] [VIDEO].

Waddell G & Williamon A (2017), Measuring the audience, in S Lee (ed.), Scholarly Research for Musicians (pp. 148-155), Routledge.


Questions about our research community and our current research projects should be directed at our Research and Knowledge Exchange Manager.

For all press and media related enquiries please contact our Press team.

Emma Hewett

Research and Knowledge Exchange Manager

+44 (0)20 7591 4734


Press office

All press and media enquiries


Back to top