Frustration and Embodiment Influence the Relationship
Between Aggressive Music and Aggression
William Langston and Justin Higgs
Middle Tennessee State University
•The research reported here was designed to address two main questions: •Experiment 1
•Hostility. The main effect for music was significant, F(3,374) =
•What is the effect of frustration on the relationship between aggressive music and aggression? 10.30, MSE = 476.21, p < .01, 2 = .08. Tukey post hoc
•What is the effect of embodying an aggressive action on the relationship between aggressive music and aggression? comparisons indicated that the two heavy music means did not
•Anderson, Berkowitz, et al. (2003) in a comprehensive review of the literature on media and violence declared that “the scientific debate over differ and both were significantly higher than the control music
and no music groups. The control music and no music groups did
whether media violence increases aggression and violence is essentially over” (p.81). However, the section of their review devoted to the not differ. The main effect for frustration was significant, F(1,374)
effects of aggressive music on aggression suggests that that particular area has received less research attention. Anderson, Carnagey, and = 111.31, MSE = 476.21, p <.01, 2 = .23. The interaction between
Eubanks (2003) concluded with a call for additional research on the relationship between music and aggressive behavior (they describe music and frustration was also significant, F(3,374) = 2.83, MSE =
476.21, p = .04, 2 = .02. Separate one-way ANOVAs (for either
research on the effects of violent lyrics as being “in its infancy,” p.969). frustrated or non-frustrated participants) revealed that there was
•In fact, a review of the literature reveals a mixed bag: not a significant music effect for frustrated participants, F(3,192)
•Violent or misogynistic music has an effect: = 0.97, MSE = 618.70, p = .41, 2 = .02, but that there was a large
music effect for non-frustrated participants, F(3,182) = 16.85,
•Anderson, Carnagey, and Eubanks (2003): Effects of violent lyrics on hostility and aggressive thoughts. MSE = 325.90, p < .01, 2 = .22.
•Barongan and Hall (1995): Effects of misogynistic lyrics on men’s choice of a vignette to show to a female confederate. •Experimenter evaluation. The main effect of music was not
•St. Lawrence and Joyner (1991): Effects of misogynistic lyrics on sex-role stereotyping, attitudes towards women. significant, F(3,374) = 1.71, MSE = 22.62, p = .16, 2 = .01. The
main effect for frustration was significant, F(1,374) = 32.31, MSE
•Fischer and Greitmeyer (2006): Effects of misogynistic lyrics on amount of hot sauce picked for a female confederate, number of negative = 22.62, p <.01, 2 = .08. The interaction between music and
attributes of women produced, feelings of vengeance, and time selected for a female target to hold her hand in an ice water bath; some frustration was not significant, F(3,374) = 0.81, MSE = 22.62, p =
effects of “man-hating” lyrics on female participants. .49, 2 = .01.
•Wester, Crown, Quatman, and Heesacker (1997): Effect of misogynistic “gangsta rap” lyrics on an adversarial sexual beliefs scale. •Experiment 2
•Hostility. The main effect for music was significant, F(1,124) =
•Ballard and Coates (1995): Effect of lyric content on Beck Depression Inventory scores (the nonviolent rap song produced the highest 7.41, MSE = 358.96, p <.01, 2 = .06. The main effect for
scores, possibly because the negative rap songs made participants feel “relatively good about their own lives,” p.164); rap music produced movement type was significant, F(1,124) = 4.89, MSE = 358.96, p
higher anger measures than heavy metal music on some scales. = .03, 2 = .04. The interaction between music and embodiment
was not significant, F(1,124) = 0.52, MSE = 358.96, p = .47, 2 =
•Violent or misogynistic music does not have an effect: .004.
•Wanamaker and Reznikoff (1989): No effect of aggressive music on hostility. •Experimenter evaluation. The main effect of music was not
•St. Lawrence and Joyner (1991): No effect of heavy metal misogynous lyrics on acceptance of interpersonal violence, adversarial sexual significant, F(1,124) = 0.02, MSE = 14.46, p = .89, 2 = .00. The
main effect for embodiment was marginally significant, F(1,124)
beliefs, and acceptance of rape myths. = 3.90, MSE = 14.46, p = .05, 2 = .03. The interaction between
•Wester, Crown, Quatman, and Heesacker (1997): No effect of misogynistic lyrics on an attitude toward women scale, a sexual conservatism music and embodiment was not significant, F(1,124) = 0.19, MSE
scale, or a sex-role stereotyping scale. = 14.46, p = .67, 2 = .002.
•Ballard and Coates (1995): No effect of music or lyrical theme on suicidal ideation or anxiety.
•A number of explanations have been proposed to explain the discrepant results:
•Anderson, Carnagey, and Eubanks (2003): Proposed that comprehension of the lyrics might be the important variable.
•Anderson, Carnagey, and Eubanks (2003): Perhaps the measures were not appropriate, e.g., Barongan and Hall’s (1995) “target behavior
was not clearly aggressive” (p.961).
•The musical selections might not be representative of the aggressive music genre. Discussion
•In addition to addressing the concerns expressed by other researchers, we also investigated whether other variables might influence the •The data from two experiments showed that music can have an influence on hostility. There is no evidence of an effect of music on the experimenter’s evaluation.
relationship between aggressive music and aggression. •We replicated some effects that have been reported previously (e.g., an effect of music on hostility as in Anderson, et al., 2003). We also extended the results of previous studies by
demonstrating that an explicit focus on the lyrics is not necessary for music to produce an effect, and by finding an influence of other variables on the relationship between music and
aggressive thoughts and actions. For aggressive actions in particular (the experimenter evaluation), frustration and embodiment produced effects, but music did not.
Experiment 1 •The effects of music on hostility might be qualified by music preference. Gowensmith and Bloom (1997) found that country music fans listening to heavy metal and heavy metal fans
•Will frustration influence whether or not aggressive music has an effect? It is possible that there is an interaction between aggressive music and listening to country music produced higher levels of anger (and equal to one another) than heavy metal fans listening to heavy metal and country music fans listening to country
frustration such that aggressive music by itself has little or no effect, but that with frustration the music will increase aggression. music (again, equal to one another). In other words, heavy metal music increased anger, but only when it was being listened to by country fans. It did not increase anger for heavy
•The first independent variable was the music type: Heavy (a driving beat, distorted guitars, and violent, screaming vocals), e.g., “Born to metal fans. There is some support for an effect of this sort in the data from Experiment 1. Participants listening to music were asked whether or not they typically listen to “this kind
Crush You” (Icepick, Violent Epiphany, 2006); Christian heavy (similar music to heavy, but with a Christian theme), e.g., “Resistance to of music.” Overall, the main effect of preference on hostility was significant (listen M = 80.66, don’t listen M = 91.75), F(1,278) = 6.70, MSE = 568.52, p = .01, 2 = .02. There was
Resistance” (Seventh Star, Brood of Vipers, 2005); heavy metal, e.g., “Shout at the Devil” (Motley Crüe, Shout at the Devil, 1983); or no no evidence of a preference effect on the hostility scores in Experiment 2.
music. •Even if the effect on hostility is due to the music, Anderson, et al. (2003) showed that these effects are relatively short-lived.
•The second independent variable was frustration. Half of the participants listened to the music while working on math problems that •In conclusion, the results from the studies suggest that, whereas music may have some effect on hostility, variables such as frustration and embodiment have stronger effects and also
couldn’t be solved in the allotted time, half were allowed to use a calculator to solve the problems. influence aggressive behavior.
•The dependent variables were hostility (the State Hostility Scale, Anderson,Deuser, & DeNeve, 1995) and an experimenter evaluation used
to measure aggression towards the experimenter (similar to Rohsenow & Bachorowski, 1984).
•The participants were 382 students from the psychology department research pool. Of the 284 listening to music, 62 reported that they
Anderson, C. A., Carnagey, N. L., & Eubanks, J. (2003). Exposure to violent media: The effects of songs with violent lyrics on aggressive thoughts and feelings. Journal of
listened to the type of music to which they were assigned.
Personality and Social Psychology, 84, 960-971.
•The results of Experiment 1 are presented in Figures 1 and 2.
Anderson, C. A., Berkowitz, L., Donnerstein, E., Huesmann, L. R., Johnson, J. D., Linz, D., et al. (2003). The influence of media violence on youth. Psychological Science in the
Experiment 2 Public Interest, 4, 81-110.
•Will embodying an aggressive action influence whether or not aggressive music has an effect? Recent research on the effects of embodiment Anderson, C. A., Deuser, W. E., & DeNeve, K. M. (1995). Hot temperatures, hostile affect, hostile cognition, and arousal: Tests of a general model of affective aggression. Personality
on variables such as stereotype activation (Mussweiler, 2006) suggest that embodiment might have an influence. Aggressive music by itself and Social Psychology Bulletin, 21, 434-448.
may have little or no effect, but, when paired with an aggressive action (e.g., dancing or gestures), there might be an effect. Ballard, M. E., & Coates, S. (1995). The immediate effects of homicidal, suicidal, and nonviolent heavy metal and rap songs on the moods of college students. Youth and Society, 27,
•The first independent variable was the music type: Heavy, e.g., “Born to Crush You” (Icepick, Violent Epiphany, 2006); and jazz, “Mack 148-168.
The Knife” (Louis Armstrong, Golden Legends, 2006). Barongan, C., & Hall, G. C. N. (1995). The influence of misogynous rap music on sexual aggression against women. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 19, 195-207.
•The second independent variable was embodiment. Half of the participants snapped their fingers in time to the beat while listening to the Fischer, P., & Greitmeyer, T. (2006). Music and aggression: The impact of sexual-aggressive song lyrics on aggression-related thoughts, emotions, and behavior toward the same and
music (appropriate for the jazz selection) and half of the participants ground their teeth while listening to the music (appropriate for the the opposite sex. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 32, 1165-1176.
heavy music). Gowensmith, W. N., & Bloom, L. J. (1997). The effects of heavy metal music on arousal and anger. Journal of Music Therapy, 34, 33-45.
•The dependent variables were hostility and an experimenter evaluation. Mussweiler, T. (2006). Doing is for thinking! Stereotype activation by stereotypic movements. Psychological Science, 17, 17-21.
•The participants were 128 students from the psychology department research pool. Twenty-four reported that they listened to the type of Rohsenow, D. J., & Bachorowski, J.-A. (1984). Effects of alcohol and expectancies on verbal aggression in men and women. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 93, 418-432.
music to which they were assigned. St. Lawrence, J. S., & Joyner, D. J. (1991). The effects of sexually violent rock music on males’ acceptance of violence against women. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 15, 49-63.
•The results of Experiment 2 are presented in Figures 3 and 4. Wanamaker, C. E., & Reznikoff, M. (1989). Effects of aggressive and nonaggressive rock songs on projective and structured tests. The Journal of Psychology, 123, 561-570.
Wester, S. R., Crown, C. L., Quatman, G. L., & Heesacker, M. (1997). The influence of sexually violent rap music on attitudes of men with little prior exposure. Psychology of Women
Quarterly, 21, 497-508.