Exposure to violent media: the effects of songs with violent lyrics on aggressive thoughts and feelings

J Pers Soc Psychol. 2003 May;84(5):960-71. doi: 10.1037/0022-3514.84.5.960.


Five experiments examined effects of songs with violent lyrics on aggressive thoughts and hostile feelings. Experiments 1, 3, 4 and 5 demonstrated that college students who heard a violent song felt more hostile than those who heard a similar but nonviolent song. Experiments 2-5 demonstrated a similar increase in aggressive thoughts. These effects replicated across songs and song types (e.g., rock, humorous, nonhumorous). Experiments 3-5 also demonstrated that trait hostility was positively related to state hostility but did not moderate the song lyric effects. Discussion centers on the potential role of lyric content on aggression in short-term settings, relation to catharsis and other media violence domains, development of aggressive personality, differences between long-term and short-term effects, and possible mitigating factors.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aggression / psychology*
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Cognition / physiology*
  • Emotions / physiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mass Media / statistics & numerical data*
  • Music / psychology*
  • Students / psychology
  • Violence / psychology*
  • Violence / statistics & numerical data*
  • Wit and Humor as Topic / psychology
  • Word Association Tests / statistics & numerical data