- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 6, 2003

College students who listen to violent music are more likely to act violently, according to a study published by the American Psychological Association.Even brief exposure to violent lyrics increases aggressive thoughts and behavior, according to research appearing in the May issue of the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.”Across five studies, we found that violent lyrics do increase violent thinking and aggressive feelings,” said lead researcher Craig Anderson of Iowa State University. “What it says is content matters.” Researchers from Iowa State University and the Texas Department of Human Services asked more than 500 college students to listen to seven violent songs by seven artists and eight nonviolent songs by seven artists.The violent songs include “Shoot ‘Em Up” by Cypress Hill and “The Night Santa Went Crazy” by Weird Al Yankovic. Students were then given various psychological tasks to measure aggressive thoughts and feelings. The students who listened to the violent songs reacted with increased feelings of hostility without provocation or threats. The report apparently debunks an age-old belief called catharsis-hypothesis, which says listening to angry, violent music helps people vent negative emotions with no ill effect.”It is a fascinating idea,” Mr. Anderson said about the ancient Greek theory. “But it turns out to be wrong.”According to the study, aggression-biased interpretations can instigate a more aggressive response, verbal or physical.The study cites previous research that shows that college students who prefer rap and heavy metal music have more hostile attitudes than students who prefer types 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.Other research found that students who listened to rap and heavy metal were more prone to below-average academic performance, school behavior problems, drug use, arrests and sexual activity.Researchers looked at people who may display more aggressive behavior but found, “In general we did not find any groups that were immune,” Mr. Anderson said.Four of the experiments conducted for the study revealed that those who heard a violent song felt more hostile than those who heard a similar, but nonviolent, song. Four experiments revealed a similar increase in aggressive thoughts. Reasons for aggressive thoughts sparked by aggressive lyrics are complicated, Mr. Anderson said, but can be summed up by “garbage in, garbage out.”

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