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Hannah Merseal is a fourth-year PhD candidate in the Cognitive Neuroscience of Creativity Lab in Pennsylvania State University’s Cognitive Psychology Area. She graduated from Wheaton College in Massachusetts in 2019 with a B.A. in Psychology and Music. She received a Master of Science in Psychology from Penn State in 2021 with a thesis titled “Assessing temporal constraints on sequence ordering in music improvisation”.

Her research interests include the cognitive mechanisms behind the production of musical improvisations, neuroimaging methods in music cognition research, open and reproducible methods in data science, and empirical research informed by musicological perspectives. Currently, she is exploring shared production biases between improvisation and language. Related ongoing projects include continued analysis of cognitive load factors on improvisations in the Weimar Jazz Database and using network science approaches to explore how musical sequences are stored and accessed in memory as part of the JazzNets project.

As of Summer 2021, Hannah is a scientist-in-residence for the Sonophilia Foundation, a non-profit with the goal of communicating creativity research to the public, policymakers, and the business world. Hannah is the first recipient of Sonophilia’s Summer Scholarship for Outstanding Young Scientists in Creativity Research, and is currently collaborating with the Foundation on their Creativity Factbook project. Hannah is working with ootiboo, a large-scale arts intervention program, to conduct a longitudinal study on creativity development in middle childhood. In collaboration with colleagues at CU Denver, Hannah is also exploring the relationship between creativity and cultural well-being through an intersectional lens. Stay tuned for more information about “Creativity for Good” soon.

Hannah is a performer involved in a number of choral and instrumental groups, leading the funk project Phat Cevin and the Pancake Band. She is also a composer, most recently for the Great Woods Symphony Orchestra at Wheaton College. In her down time, Hannah enjoys collecting vinyl, a good cup of coffee, and hanging out with a round little cat named Matcha.



2019-2024 (expected)

Pennsylvania State University

PhD in Psychology

Specialization in Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience


Pennsylvania State University

MS in Psychology


Wheaton College (Massachusetts)

BA in Music and Psychology

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