324 Violent music & Aggression

Researched by Anderson, Craig. A., Carnagey, Nicholas. L., & Eubanks, Janie. (2003).

Written by Bethany Wellman, M.S.

Do violent music lyrics help vent powerful feelings or increase aggressive thoughts and emotions?

Psychology researchers completed five experiments to examine effects of songs with violent lyrics on aggressive thoughts and hostile feelings. More than 500 Midwestern college students listened to both violent songs, referencing aggression and acts of violence, and nonviolent songs. Word-association tasks tested whether the students linked more non-aggressive words with aggressive words or filled incomplete words with vowels to make aggressive words. After hearing the songs, they reported their feelings of hostility and ranked sentences based on their emotions.

Results demonstrated that students who heard a violent song felt more hostile than those who heard a similar but nonviolent song. These effects were replicated across songs and song types with an overall increase of aggressive thoughts when listening to any type of music inferring violence. The findings were true despite the listeners’ gender and personality differences, as well as their reactions to the different performing artists and musical styles. This research indicates that listening to violent and angry songs does not “vent” powerful feelings but likely brings up angrier thoughts and emotions.

Be aware of the dangers of listening to angry lyrics. Find alternative ways to resolve anger.


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 Personality and Social Psychology84(5), 960-971.

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