Music & Aggression

by Katie Dougherty

The Facts

- violent lyrics lead to aggressive thoughts and emotions

- violent songs lead to feelings of hostility without provocation or threat

- "Aggressive thoughts can influence perceptions of ongoing social interactions, coloring them with an aggressive tint. Such aggression-biased interpretations can, in turn, instigate a more aggressive response -verbal or physical- than would have been emitted in a nonbiased state, thus provoking an aggressive escalatory spiral of antisocial exchanges." - Dr. Craig A. Anderson, Ph.D. of Iowa State University

- music impacts our mood; relaxing music will make us feel relaxed, sad music will make us feel sad, angry music will make us feel angry

- other things, like chanting at a football game, is known to lead to aggressive behavior (throwing things, verbally bashing the opposing team)

-rumors that listening to angry music can be cathartic in venting aggression were proven untrue

- there can be long term effects as well as short term effects- can lead to a more aggressive and confrontational personality

- "content matters;" the lyrics are what is most important

Studies Done

A group of students listened to songs by rap artists like Beastie Boy, Cypress Hill, and Run DMC. Half of the students listened to violent songs and the other listened to nonviolent songs. The group that listened to the violent songs scored higher on aggression in a variety of psychological tests. For example, each individual was asked to classify words with aggressive and non-aggressive meanings (rock, animal, stick). Those who listened to violent lyrics were more likely to make aggressive associations. There was also a fill in the letter test (h_t). Those who listened to violent lyrics were more likely to choose a word like "hit", rather than a word like "hat."

Theories of Aggression

Music falls under the Social Learning Theory of Aggression. The aggressive thoughts, feelings, and behaviors are learned by repeated exposure to angry and aggressive music.