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The relation of music to violent behavior

Find articles by Leah Sharman Genevieve A. The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author s or licensor are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms. This article has been cited by other articles in PMC. Abstract The claim that listening to extreme music causes anger, and expressions of anger such as aggression and delinquency have yet to be substantiated using controlled experimental methods.

In this study, 39 extreme music listeners aged 18—34 years were subjected to an anger induction, followed by random assignment to 10 min of listening to extreme music from their own playlist, or 10 min silence control. Results showed that ratings of PANAS hostility, irritability, and stress increased during the anger induction, and decreased after the music or silence.

Heart rate increased during the anger induction and was sustained not increased in the music condition, and decreased in the silence condition. PANAS active and inspired ratings increased during music listening, an effect that was not seen in controls. The findings indicate that extreme music did not make angry participants angrier; rather, it appeared to match their physiological arousal and result in an increase in positive emotions.

Listening to extreme music may represent a healthy way of processing anger for these listeners. Extreme music is characterized by chaotic, loud, heavy, and powerful sounds, with emotional vocals, often containing lyrical themes of anxiety, depression, social isolation, and loneliness Shafron and Karno, 2013. Perhaps, due to these musical characteristics, it has been claimed that extreme music leads to anger, and expressions of anger such as aggression, delinquency, drug use, and suicidal acts Selfhout et al.

Research on anger processing the relation of music to violent behavior found that approach motivation defined as the impulse to move forward may be activated by anger Carver and Harmon-Jones, 2009such that after experiencing anger we then look to act out approach motivated behaviors, for example, angry facial expression and physical retaliation. Considering the highly arousing nature of the music, along with negative themes commonly contained in the lyrics, extreme music has been interpreted as eliciting anger among its listeners, and that this may activate aggressive behaviors Gowensmith and Bloom, 1997.

This study will explore these alternative hypotheses about the influence of extreme music listening on anger processing in a sample of extreme music listeners under controlled experimental conditions.

Due to the consequences of the 1960s era of drug experimentation, decline of peaceful protest movements, and the continuation of the Vietnam War, angry and pessimistic themes began to emerge in new genres of music Reddick and Beresin, 2002.

Thus, punk and heavy metal music were dedicated to notions of anarchy and destruction Stack et al. Following the rise of punk and heavy metal, a range of new genres and subgenres surfaced. Each of these genres and their subgenres are socio-politically charged and, as mentioned earlier, are characterized by heavy and powerful sounds with expressive vocals. In a series of five experiments involving first year psychology students and student volunteers unselected in terms of demographic characteristics or musical preferenceAnderson et al.

However, this effect was fleeting and it was disrupted when the participants did intervening tasks. The powerful vocals that exist in the most extreme genres such as screamo, where nearly all lyrics are screamed at the listener, may account for the perception by outsiders that this music is angry.

From this stems a stereotype that extreme music fans, and especially heavy metal fans, are more aggressive, agitated, and more aroused than the general public Arnett, 1991 ; Alessi et al.

Furthermore, extreme music has been held responsible for social problems like depression, suicide, aggressive behavior, and substance misuse Shafron and Karno, 2013. This evidence does not support a causal view. Extreme music typically does not contain themes of illicit drug use, although some songs do contain lyrics related to alcohol use.

Furthermore, there are documented examples of rap music being used in therapeutic ways with samples of people who misuse substances Baker et al. A review by Baker and Bor 2008 found a relationship between various genres of music and antisocial behaviors, vulnerability to suicide, and drug use among young people.

However, there was no evidence in these studies for a causal link, and it was instead suggested that music preference is a reflection of emotional vulnerability in these young listeners. There were no differences between the two samples across the big five personality dimensions extraversion, neuroticism, openness to experience, conscientiousness, and agreeableness.

In each case, the problem music fans used music for emotion regulation slightly more than the non-problem music fans. The authors interpreted their findings to mean that listening to these types of music allows problem music fans to regulate their mood in a more sublimated way, instead of externalizing negative emotions, which in turn could lead to engaging in antisocial acts.

  1. Advertisements requested participants for a study of the potential benefits of extreme music listening.
  2. Furthermore, there are documented examples of rap music being used in therapeutic ways with samples of people who misuse substances Baker et al.
  3. So, although there is evidence that heavy metal increases state arousal Stack et al. This finding highlights the importance of personally selected music in determining the emotional response.
  4. Anger was operationalized in this study in terms of both subjective ratings of hostility and irritability and physiological recording of heart rate, which were expected to increase when participants experienced an increase in anger. Results showed that ratings of PANAS hostility, irritability, and stress increased during the anger induction, and decreased after the music or silence.
  5. This finding highlights the importance of personally selected music in determining the emotional response. The authors interpreted their findings to mean that listening to these types of music allows problem music fans to regulate their mood in a more sublimated way, instead of externalizing negative emotions, which in turn could lead to engaging in antisocial acts.

Shafron and Karno 2013 examined music preferences in a sample of 551 university students and divided the sample into two groups: The heavy music fans showed significantly higher symptoms of depression and anxiety than the non-fans; however, there was no difference between the two groups on trait anger.

Gowensmith and Bloom 1997 found that heavy metal fans did not show an increase in anger after listening to heavy metal music. In this study, heavy metal music was highly arousing to both fans and non-fans, and in fact, measured state-arousal was greater among heavy metal listeners.

Despite the arousing influence of the music, heavy metal fans displayed no difference in self-reported anger whether they were listening to a non-preferred music genre country or heavy metal.

Extreme Metal Music and Anger Processing

Non-fans, on the other hand, did display greater self-reported anger after listening to heavy metal. It is unclear whether the non-fans were angry as a result of the musical characteristics, or because they were being asked to listen to something they did not enjoy. So, although there is evidence that heavy metal increases state arousal Stack et al. These reductions were evident in both self-reported ratings and in reduced physiological arousal heart rate, respiration, and skin conductance during music listening.

In contrast, participants who listened to heavy metal after the stress induction did not reduce self-reported negative emotional states or physiological arousal. However, it is important to note that heavy metal was not a preferred music genre for these participants.

This finding highlights the importance of personally selected music in determining the emotional response.

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Although this research suggests that a song considered relaxing by the listener should reduce anger and stress in the presence of a stressor, it remains to be seen whether this effect generalizes to extreme music genres. Considering the case of music and sadness Related research on another negatively valenced emotion, sadness, might help to shed some light on music and anger processing.

Some studies show that people listen to sad music when they are sad in order to improve their mood Saarikallio and Erkkila, 2007. For instance, Papinczak et al.

Introduction

Similarly, a study of 65 adults from five countries found that when they were feeling sad, sad music helped these individuals to connect with their the relation of music to violent behavior through the music to fully experience sadness and consequently improve their affect Van den Tol and Edwards, 2013. Despite evoking sadness, Finnish university students reported that they enjoy listening to sad music, and this effect was partly explained by personality traits such as openness to experience and empathy Vuoskoski et al.

On the other hand, some studies have reported that listening to sad music results in a more depressed mood among participants Chen et al. So, the influence of negatively valenced music on listeners appears to depend on the listening context, their current mood, and moderation by other personality traits. Study aims and hypotheses To summarize the literature reviewed here, research on music and emotion supports the function of music to convey and elicit strong emotion.

However, to date there has been a limited amount of research on extreme music genres and anger, with the exception of correlational studies showing an association, and one series of experiments claiming that listening to extreme music increases state hostility Anderson et al. Thus, the current study sought to explore this question by recruiting extreme music listeners for an experimental study on the effects of extreme music listening compared to a no music control condition on anger processing.

Anger was operationalized in this study in terms of both subjective ratings of hostility and irritability and physiological recording of heart rate, which were expected to increase when participants experienced an increase in anger.

The cardiovascular system is complex and has multiple regulatory subsystems from central and peripheral autonomic nervous systems and humoral influences Bernison et al. This is less of a concern with within-subjects designs such as was used in the current study, where the participant related factors are kept constant while the experimental factor e. Nevertheless, an increase in heart rate may reflect various psychological states including anger, stress, excitement, or fear.

Thus, the first two hypotheses for investigation are: Another body of research indicates that listeners are drawn to music that is concordant with their current emotional state, and are able to use music as an emotion regulation technique Saarikallio, 2011 ; Thoma et al. Further, in Lozon and Bensimon 2014 review on problem music, they also concluded that listeners of music containing themes of aggression and suicidal ideation seemed to feel alleviated of angst and aggression after listening.

Thus the alternative hypotheses are: Advertisements requested participants for a study of the potential benefits of extreme music listening. When individuals confirmed their participation, they were asked to bring along their personal music listening device to the laboratory. Seven participants were recruited via the online recruitment site SONA at the University of Queensland, receiving course credit for respective first year psychology courses.

The remaining participants were recruited from the wider community via word of mouth and advertising on social media and community websites. Of the six activities included in the questionnaire, participants engaged in an average of three, which is similar to other research conducted in unselected adult samples authors, unpublished research.

The average number of years playing an instrument or singing was 6. The most commonly reported musical preferences were: Table 1 Sample characteristics of participants in the music and the control conditions.