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Home > Research Articles > Study: Violent Song Lyrics Foster Aggression

Journal of Personality and Social Psychology

Monday, May 5, 2003

Researchers: Musical Style No Factor

POSTED: 12:28 p.m. EDT May 5, 2003

Songs with violent lyrics increase aggressive thoughts and emotions, according to a new study published in the May issue of the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.

The findings contradict the idea that listening to angry, violent music provides a positive catharsis or venting effect on violent thoughts and feelings.

The study, conducted by researchers from Iowa State University and the Texas Department of Human Services, included more than 500 college students. The researchers examined the effects of seven violent songs by seven artists and eight nonviolent songs by seven artists. The students listened to the songs and were given various psychological tasks to measure aggressive thoughts and feelings.

They found that violent songs increased feelings of hostility without provocation or threat, and this effect was not the result of differences in musical style, specific performing artist or arousal properties of the songs. Even the humorous violent songs increased aggressive thoughts.

The violent-song increases in aggressive thoughts and feelings have implications for real world violence, according to lead researcher Craig Anderson, of Iowa State University.

"One major conclusion from this and other research on violent entertainment media is that content matters," Anderson said. "This message is important for all consumers, but especially for parents of children and adolescents."

Researchers said that more studies need to be conducted to identify the short-term and long-term effects of violent song lyrics.