The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Manic music is social menace

Los Angeles, May 5 (Reuters): Violent lyrics in songs increase aggression-related thoughts and emotions and could indirectly create a more hostile social environment, a study released yesterday by a US psychology association found.

The Washington, D.C.-based American Psychological Association released the study, resulting from five experiments involving over 500 college students, in the May issue of the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.

The violent songs increased feelings of hostility without provocation or threat, according to the study. It said the 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 study said.

The group said the study contradicts a popular notion that listening to angry, violent music actually serves as a positive catharsis for people.

The music industry came under criticism from lawmakers in October for failing to use more descriptive parental advisory labels that specify whether the music contains sex, violence or strong language.

The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) has said that current CD labels give parents enough information without violating the right to free expression.

The RIAA is the trade gro- up for the world’s five big labels, including AOL Time Warner Inc., EMI Group Plc, Bertelsmann AG, Vivendi Universal’s Universal Music and Sony Corp.

In response to pressure from Tipper Gore, the wife of former vice-president Al Gore, the industry agreed in 1985 to put labels on records that contain explicit sex or violence.

At the time, artists said the labels were government-sponsored censorship.

During the psychological association’s five experiments, researchers from Iowa State University and the Texas department of human services examined the effects of seven violent songs by seven artists and eight non-violent songs by seven artists.

After listening, students were given various psychological tasks to measure aggressive thoughts and feelings, including asking the participants to classify words that have both aggressive and non-aggressive meanings, like rock and stick.

Results of the experiments showed that violent songs led to more aggressive interpretations of ambiguously aggressive words and increa- sed the relative speed with which people read aggre- ssive versus non-aggressive words.

“Such aggression-biased interpretations can, in turn, instigate a more aggressive response, verbal or physical, than would have been emitted in a non-biased state, thus provoking an aggressive escalatory spiral of anti-social exchanges,” said researcher Craig Anderson, in a statement.

While researchers said repeated exposure to violent lyrics could indirectly create a more hostile social environment, they said it was possible the effects of violent songs may last only a fairly short time.

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