Discussion centers on the potential role of lyric content on aggression in short-term settings, relation to catharsis and other media violence domains, development of aggressive resonators, differences between long-term and short-term effects, and possible mitigating factors. As by behaving in symbolically aggressive ways. Though the aggression catharsis hypothesis has been thoroughly explored and debunked in several entertainment media domains, there has been relatively little work on the effects of songs with violent lyrics on aggression-related variables such as aggressive thoughts and feelings.
Someone told me once that there’s a right and wrong. Punishment was cure for those who dare cross the line. But it must not be true for Jerk-offs Just like you. And maybe it’s Just bullwhip. I should play god and shoot you myself. ?Tool, “Jerk-off” (1992) As evidenced by the creation of the Parents’ Music Resource Center and the policy of labeling music products containing violent lyrics, many people are concerned with potential deleterious effects of listening to songs with violent lyrics.Order now
An accumulating MUsic and its violence By Unsung_gods_eye exposure to violent media is causally related to subsequent expression of aggression in both short- and long-term time frames (e. G. , Anderson & Bushman, AAA; Borrowing, 1993; Bushman & Anderson, 2001). The vast majority of this research has soused on violent television and movies (Houseman & Miller, 1994).
Recently, a small but relatively consistent research literature has shown that short-term exposure to violent video games causes increases in aggression and aggression-related variables (Anderson & Bushman, 2001). Nonetheless, there remains among the general population and many practitioners a very strong belief in the age-old catharsis hypothesis?the belief that experiencing and expressing aggressive emotions and thoughts will decrease subsequent aggressive thoughts, feelings, and emotions (Bushman, 2002; Bushman,
Bandmaster, & Stack, 1999). This ancient Greek idea, later popularized by Brewer and Freud (1893-1895/1955) and now usually labeled venting, states that aggressive impulses can be reduced by watching, reading, or singing about anger and aggression as well Media Differences There are numerous differences between watching violent television, playing violent video games, and listening to popular music. One is the lack of a video component to audio-only music.
Another is that aggressive lyrical content of popular music is often discernible only to the most attentive of listeners, whereas videotaped media including music videos) make their violent content abundantly and graphically clear. Some rock music songs have such garbled lyrics that they have given rise to debates about what the lyrics are (e. G. , “Lie, Lie”; “Nina-Gouda-Dad-Vida”; see Marsh, 1993). A third difference concerns attention. A large proportion of time spent listening to music involves paying attention to the music (not the lyrics) or to other tasks.
Thus, effects of violent lyrics may generally be attenuated (relative to video-based media violence) simply because the lyrics are not processed by the listeners. Nonetheless, there are valid reasons to worry about potentially harmful effects of violent music lyrics. Numerous studies have shown that aggressive words can prime aggressive thoughts, perceptions, and behavior (e. G. , Anderson, Benjamin, & Bartholomew, 1998; Barge, Chin, & Barrows, 1996; Barge & Potentiometer, 1982). Indeed, such effects can occur even when the stimulus has not been consciously recognized (e. . , Barge et al. , 1996, Experiment 3). Furthermore, listeners are capable of recognizing themes of music (I. E. , violence, sex, suicide, and Satanism) even when it is difficult to comprehend specific lyric content (Hansen & Hansen, 991). Additionally, music stimuli are played repeatedly, both by radio stations as well as by listeners themselves. Craig A. Anderson and Nicholas L. Carnage, Department of Psychology, Iowa State University; Jeanie Banks, Texas Department of Human Services, Austin, Texas.
Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Craig A. Anderson, Department of Psychology, WI 12 Allegorical Hall, Iowa State University, Ames, Iowa EXPOSURE TO SONGS WITH VIOLENT LYRICS Another difference between video-based entertainment and music concerns the amount of imagination needed or allowed to fill in details of the story being told. The lack of visual images in music both allows and requires listeners to imagine details. Concrete images probably play a major role in transfer of ideas from the video world to one’s own real-world situations.
When one’s video antagonists are similar to one’s real antagonists, violent solutions modeled in the video world are more likely to be attempted in the real world than when the video antagonists are dissimilar (Bandeau, 1986; Borrowing, 1993; Gene, 1990). The lack of concrete images in violent music may well allow listeners to imagine audio antagonists similar to real-world antagonists. Thus, there are reasons to expect violent-lyric songs to be either more or less influential than violent video materials.
The present article reports five experiments testing the hypothesis that brief exposure to songs with violent lyrics can increase two variables that are key mediators of situational influences on aggression: aggressive cognitions and aggressive affect. In the next section, we briefly review the existing research literature. Then we show why the general aggression model (GAME; Anderson & Bushman, 2001; Anderson & Houseman, in press) suggests a focus on aggressive cognitions and affect. 961 Han students who preferred other genres of music, such as alternative, adult contemporary, dance-soul, or country.
Listeners to heavy metal music held more negative attitudes toward women. Rap music fans were more distrustful. Similarly, Took and Weiss (1994) found a correlation between preference for rap and heavy metal music and below-average academic performance, school behavior problems, drug use, arrests, and sexual activity. Still other studies have found correlations between music type preferences and a variety of maladaptive behaviors but have not specifically linked lyric preferences to those behaviors. For a recent review, see Roberts, Christenson, & Gentile, in press. Experimental Studies of Music Without Video Music Without Lyrics McFarland (1984) looked at the effects of exposure to tense, calm, or no-background music (without lyrics) on the emotional content of stories written for the Thematic Apperception Test. Participants who heard tense music wrote the most unpleasant stories. Like the music video studies, these results tell us little about lyric effects. However, they indicate that research on lyrics must control for effects of type of music. Past Music Research Music With Lyrics
Several field and laboratory experiments have examined effects of aggressive music videos. Waite, Hildebrand, and Foster (1992) observed a significant decrease in aggressive behavior on a forensic inpatient ward after removal of Music Television (MAT). Peterson and Post (1989) found that exposing males to neurotic violent music videos led to a significant increase in adversarial sexual beliefs and negative affect. Johnson, Jackson, and Goat (1995) found that males who had been randomly assigned to view violent rap music videos became more accepting of the use of violence in dealing with interpersonal problems.
Related research found that males and females exposed to violent rap music videos became more accepting of teen dating violence Monsoons, Adams, Suborn, & Reed, 1995). College students exposed to rock music videos with antisocial themes produced a greater acceptance of antisocial behavior (Hansen & Hansen, 1990). Students were also more likely to accept stereotypic sex-role behavior after being exposed to music videos that displayed similar behavior (Hansen, 1989; Hansen & Hansen, 1988).
Music video studies are valuable in their own right, but they do not provide information about the effects of exposure to violent lyrics without video. Music videos are much more like other video media (TV, movies) in that they can tell a story with graphically violent images; the finding that they produce similar effects is not surprising. Correlation Studies of Music Preference and Behavior Correlation studies have suggested a connection between the kind of music youth listen to and various maladaptive behaviors and attitudes, though the direction of causality is not clear.
Rubin, West, and Mitchell (2001) found that college students who preferred rap and heavy metal music reported more hostile attitudes Only a few studies have specifically examined the influence of violent songs on aggression-related variables. Interestingly, most have found no effects of lyrical content (e. G. , Ballard & Coates, 1995; SST. Lawrence & Joiner, 1991; Winemaker & Recognize, 1989). For example, participants in Ballard and Coaster’s (1995) study heard one of six songs varying in genre (rap vs.. Eave metal) and lyric (homicidal, suicidal, neutral). Lyric content had no impact on mood measures, including anger. In other studies showing no effect, the genre of the songs (heavy metal) made the lyrics nearly incomprehensible, a problem noted by the researchers themselves. Barongs and Hall (1995) reported a study suggesting that antisocial lyrics can affect behavior, but the target behavior was not clearly aggressive; thus, its relevance to our work is unclear.
Male college students listened to misogynous or neutral rap music, viewed three vignettes (neutral, sexual-violent, assaulting), and then chose one of the three vignettes to be shown to a female confederate. Those who had listened to the misogynous music were significantly more likely to choose the assaulting vignette. Western, Crown, Stuntman, and Hackers (1997) reported mixed lyrics, (b) the same music without lyrics, (c) sexually violent lyrics without music, or (d) no music or lyrics. Results yielded no differences in negative attitudes toward women among the four groups.
However, participants exposed to violent lyrics viewed their relationships with women as more adversarial. Overall, the few published studies on the effects of exposure to songs with violent lyrics have produced mixed results, perhaps because of methodological problems involving confounds with arousal or lyrics that were indecipherable. We build on prior work by using a social- cognitive theoretical perspective that has emerged from aggression research in several different domains, including media violence. ANDERSON, CARNAGE, AND BANKS 962
Theoretical Perspective The theoretical basis for the present experiments comes from our earlier work on GAME (Anderson, 1997; Anderson, Anderson, & Douser, 1996; Anderson & Bushman, Bibb; Anderson, Douser, & Denned, 1995; Anderson & Dill, 2000; Anderson & Houseman, in press). This model draws on empirical and theoretical contributions from several research groups, most notably the social- cognitive work of Bandeau (1986), Borrowing (1993), Crick and Dodge (1994), Gene (1990), Houseman (1988), and Michel (1973).
Figure 1 presents the single-episode portion of this model. Effects of situational (e. G. , violent media) and personality (e. . , trait hostility) input variables combine (sometimes interactively) to influence aggressive behavior by influencing the present internal state (cognition, affect, and arousal) and subsequent appraisal and decision processes. These main pathways are linked in Figure 1 by the bold lines with arrows. The dashed lines within the Present Internal State box indicate that these components affect each other.
Because of potential arousal effects on other variables, it is important to control induced arousal when examining effects on cognition and affect. The focus of this article is lyric effects on current cognition and affect, so we do to discuss appraisal and action aspects of GAME. According to GAME, long-term effects accrue via the development of highly accessible knowledge structures and emotional desensitizing to violence by well-established social- cognitive learning and systematic desensitizing processes.
In brief, each media violence episode constitutes a learning trial in which one rehearses aggressive thoughts and primes aggression-related affects, creating and making chronically accessible hostile attitudes, beliefs, expectations, and scripts (Anderson & Bushman, Bibb; Anderson & Houseman, in press. ) Overview theoretical and empirical reasons. GAME explicitly incorporates individual differences as factors important in each individual life episode and as something that develops hostility in a variety of aggression contexts.
For instance, the effects of exposure to violent movies sometimes (but not always) differ for people who score low versus high on measures of trait aggressiveness (Anderson, 1997; Bushman, 1995; Bushman & Gene, 1990). Similarly, aggressive personality has been linked to two aggressiveness biases. Dill, Anderson, Anderson, and Douser (1997) found that aggressive people are more likely to expect others to solve problems by use of aggressive behaviors (hostile expectation bias) and are more likely to see interpersonal interactions as aggressive encounters (hostile perception bias).
Humorous content was included both to test the generalization of violent song effects and because past research suggests that humor might mitigate effects of aggression-stimulating variables (Baron, 1978; Borrowing, 1970; Mueller & Demonstrates, 1977). Humorous (vs.. Numerous) content may combine additively or interactively with violent (vs.. Nonviolent) content in their effects on subsequent aggressive thoughts and feelings. If they combine additively, then violent humorous ones should yield higher levels of aggressive affect and thought than nonviolent humorous songs but should be fairly comparable with no-song control conditions.
If they combine interactively, then humorous songs should yield relatively low levels of aggressive thought and affect regardless of whether they are also violent or nonviolent. Experiments 1 and 2 assessed effects of violent lyrics on state hostility and aggressive cognitions, respectively. Experiment 3 assessed effects of violent lyrics and trait hostility on state hostility and aggressive cognitions using a broader set of songs and different measure of aggressive cognition. Experiments 4 and 5 examined the combined effects of violent humorous song lyrics on aggressive thought and affect and included trait hostility.
The present studies investigated effects of violent songs on aggressive thought and affect, controlling for arousal effects by song selection and by measuring perceived arousal. We also investigated potential moderating effects of two variables: trait hostility and humorous content. Trait hostility was included for both Experiment 1 Method Participants Twenty-nine female and 30 male students from a large Midwestern university participated. About half were recruited by members of a senior psychology class as part of a class project.
The rest were from the psychology participant pool in a later semester, and participated for extra credit. This experiment used a 2 (song) 0 2 (sex) 0 2 (participant pool) factorial design. The participant pool factor was included in the statistical analysis but had no reliable effects. Songs Figure 1 . The general aggression model. Main pathways are linked by bold lines with components affect each other. From “Human Aggression,” by C. A. Anderson & B. J. Bushman, 2002, Annual Review of Psychology, 53, p. 34. Copyright 2002 by Annual Reviews. Reprinted with permission.
We solicited suggestions from students from the same undergraduate population for pairs of contemporary rock songs that had the following characteristics. One song had to have clearly violent content, whereas the other had to have no (or minimal) violent content. Both had to be understandable, the same type (e. G. , both hard rock or both soft rock), and about the same length. Finally, we wanted both songs to be by the same group. We used two songs, each about 5 min long, by the group Tool: “Jerk- Off” (violent; Tool, 1992, from the album Opiate) and “Four Degrees” (nonviolent; Tool, 1993, from the album Undertow).
Procedure After reading and signing a consent form, participants learned that the experiment involved how different songs affect performance on various tasks. They were to listen to a contemporary song, complete a couple of psychological tasks, and then answer a few questions about the song. Participants then listened to the assigned song, completed the State Hostility Scale (SSH; Anderson et al. , 1995), completed a longer unrelated task, and were debriefed. The SSH contains 35 sentences describing current feelings (either hostile or friendly). For example, two hostile items read, “l feel like yelling at somebody’ and “l feel rigorous. Respondents rate each sentence on a 5-point Liker-type scale (1 0 strongly disagree, 3 0 neither agree nor disagree, 5 0 strongly agree). The friendly items are reverse scored. The scale typically produces internal reliability estimates in the . 90 -. 95 range, but three items (“l feel willful,” “l feel tender,” “l feel vexed”) often show poor item-total correlations. “Willful” displayed a low item-total correlation in the present study, so we dropped it. Coefficient alpha was . 96. Results and Discussion Sex was included in the analyses as a covariate rather than as another two-level factor. The 2 (song: violent vs.. Nonviolent) 0 2 (participant pool: volunteer vs.. Psychology) ANCHOVY yielded two statistically reliable effects. As predicted, the violent song produced higher levels of state hostility than did the nonviolent song (Ms 0 2. 60 and 2. 19, respectively), F(l, 54) 5. 97, MESS 0 0. 426, p O . 02. In addition, females reported higher levels of state hostility than males (MS 2. 62 and 2. 17, respectively), F(l, 54) 6. 71, MESS 0. 426, p O . 02. 2 This somewhat unusual finding is probably due to the fact that in our participant pool, females typically do not like hard rock music to the same extent as males.
These results indicate that the violent content of rock songs can increase feelings of hostility when compared with similar but nonviolent rock music. It is important to absolute level of the SSH means reflect this lack of provocation. Experiment 2 Experiment 2 was identical to Experiment 1 in all respects except that the dependent variable was a measure of aggressive cognition. Sixty-one undergraduates (30 females, 31 males) participated either as volunteers or as a part of their introductory psychology class. The dependent variable was based on participants’ ratings of a large number of word airs from Bushman (1996).
Bushman identified 10 words as clearly aggressive in meaning (blood, butcher, choke, fight, gun, hatchet, hurt, kill, knife, and wound) and 10 words as ambiguous in meaning, having both aggressive and nonaggression meanings (alley, animal, bottle, drugs, movie, night, police, red, rock, and stick). Bushman showed that people who score high on trait hostility tended to perceive relatively greater similarity of meaning between pairs of aggressive and ambiguous words (from these two lists) than do people who score low on trait hostility. We adapted Bushman’s (1996) task in the following way.
All possible pairs of these 20 words were presented to participants with instructions to rate each pair on how “similar, associated, or related” the paired words seemed to be. Ratings were made on 7-point scales anchored at 1 (not at all similar, associated, or related) and 7 (extreme- lay similar, associated, or related). We calculated three average similarity scores for each participant: aggressive-aggressive word pairs (45), aggressive-ambiguous word pairs (100), and ambiguous- ambiguous word pairs (45). Our reasoning and predictions were quite simple.
If listening to violent lyrics increases the accessibility f aggressive thoughts in semantic memory, then ambiguous words will tend to be interpreted in a relatively more aggressive way, leading to relatively higher similarity ratings of aggressive-ambiguous pairs. This same semantic priming process might also increase the perceived similarity of aggressive-aggressive pairs and of ambiguous-ambiguous pairs, but these increases should be small relative to the violent song effect on aggressive-ambiguous pairs. We used the other two word-pair types as within-subject controls. Thus, we predicted violent (vs.. Nonviolent) song artisans to give larger similarity ratings of aggressive- ambiguous word pairs relative to their ratings of ambiguous-ambiguous and aggressive-aggressive word pairs. We computed a contrast score reflecting the main prediction. We averaged each participant’s aggressive-aggressive and ambiguous-ambiguous scores. From this control rating we then subtracted each person’s aggressive-ambiguous score. On this contrast score, smaller scores indicate that the aggressive- ambiguous pairs were predicted that participants who heard the violent song would have significantly smaller contrast scores.
An ANCHOVY was conducted on this contrast. The 2 (song: violent vs.. Nonviolent) 0 2 (subject pool: volunteer vs.. Introductory psychology) ANCHOVY yielded only one reliable effect, the predicted main effect of music lyric content, F(l, 56) 0 4. 24, MESS 0 0. 113, p O . 05. Table 1 presents the mean similarity ratings as a function of song and word-pair type. As can be seen in Table 1, the violent song led to higher similarity ratings for aggressive-ambiguous word pairs than did the nonviolent song; the mean similarity score increased by almost half of a scale point (0. 5) on a 7-point scale. The corresponding song effect on the control pairs (aggressive-aggressive and ambiguous-ambiguous) was much smaller; the mean similarity increase was Just slightly more than a quarter of a scale point (0. 27). As predicted, violent song participants had significantly smaller contrast scores. Figure 2 presents these results in a different way, clearly illustrating the violent-lyrics effect on aggressive cognition. In sum, hearing a violent rock song led participants to interpret the meaning of ambiguous words such as rock and stick in an aggressive way.
Nonetheless, for all studies, preliminary analyses explored the possibility of sex interactions. There were none, thereby satisfying the homogeneity of slopes assumption of analysis of covariance (ANCHOVY). 2 Unless otherwise indicated, reported means for all experiments are the appropriate least squares adjusted means, adjusted for other factors in the model such as sex and trait hostility. Significance levels are based on two-tailed tests. The astute reader will realize that each effect in this between-subjects analysis of variance is identical to the interaction of that effect with the repeated-measures factor control versus aggressive-ambiguous. Experiment 3 Overview and Design Broadening Aspects Experiment 3 was designed to broaden our tests in three ways. First, on the basis of a pilot study, we used a larger set of 4 violent and 4 nonviolent songs. Twenty-six female and 24 male college students listened to 10 rock songs and rated how violent each was on a unidirectional scale anchored at O (not at all) and 10 (extremely).