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More in Community
Do song lyrics affect behavior?
When Tipper Gore co-founded the Parents Music Resource Center (PMRC), she meant for songs and albums to have a label that would warn parents that the music they’re about to buy has explicit lyrics.
Now it seems, perhaps, that most parents don’t care what music their kids are listening to. In 1985 music was more censored than it is now. Although her intentions were for the greater good, Gore’s idea for labeled albums backfired on her through the musicians.
They made fun of the label by putting their own "explicit lyrics" label on their albums, such as Metallica's 1986 release of Master of Puppets. Several musicians also spoke out against it in their songs, such as the Ramones 1992 song "Censorsh*t", which was about the label being a "smokescreen for bigger problems like S&L (the savings and loan crisis of the 80s' and 90s'), the homeless, the environment."
Today, a good number of songs don't have one verse that doesn't mention sex, drugs, violence and have inappropriate language.
Music has changed a lot since 1984, whether it’s in the pace of the beat, the different genres, or the things that are sung about. Musicians still sing about quite a few of the same things, such as sex, drugs, and violence but the lyrics now tend to be much more blunt.
"You hit me once, I hit you back/You gave a kick, I gave a slap/You smashed a plate over my head/Then I set fire to our bed." This is a song by Florence and the Machine called "Kiss With A Fist." It is about domestic violence.
Janet Dillingham, who has been part of REACH for six years, said that a teen living in a situation of domestic violence could be affected negatively by an inappropriate song about domestic violence.
"Yes, the violence is a normal part of their life, so it may influence their behavior," she said She also noted that the domestic violence rate in the Oxford Hills is high.
When asked about songs with explicit lyrics, Kelcey Robichaud, a student at Oxford Hills Comprehensive High School (OHCHS), said "It’s my happy music. It’s the music I mainly listen to."
However, Robichaud di say she thought that it could affect someone negatively. Other students said they don’t usually listen to it [this type of music] if they have a choice. They just listen to it if it’s on the radio.
Sarah Douglas, also a student at OHCHS said, "It’s on the radio stations I listen to, and it’s got a good beat. Usually."
"No," said Cheyenne Mooney and Kari Narhuminti , both students at OHCHS, when asked if they listen to music with this sort of lyric. All five agreed that inappropriate lyrics could negatively affect someone in the end.
When asked if somgs with sexual, violent or inappropriate language lyrics impavt teens' lives, Meredith Manning, of the radio station Q97.9 said, "I’m not a psychologist so I don’t really feel qualified to answer that question."
Stephen Butcher teaches Intro to Psychology and AP Psychology at OHCHS. He started teaching psychology at there in the early 1990s.
Butcher stated that music is one of the first intelligences we learn. From when we’re babies and we communicate with our mother through "motherese," or as it is most commonly known, baby talk.
Because when we’re babies we don’t know words, we listen to the rhythm and timbre that our mothers use when they talk. "Motherese" is cross-cultural. (A study was done where mothers from several different countries spoke to their children and the timbres and rhythms of the mothers’ voices were measured. It was found that all the mothers had a practically identical timbre and rhythm.)
Butcher also said that music could effect emotional intelligence. Emotional intelligence is the skill or ability to identify, assess, and control the emotions of oneself.
Music can also help set moods. Happy music will generally make someone happy. Depressing music will make someone sad. Angry music will generally make someone angry or on edge. If someone listens to angry music that makes them angry, they could possibly overreact about something. When listening to certain genre of music, one could feel certain things and overreact or take it to an extreme.
Butcher alluded to an angel named Lucifer in ancient Jewish stories. He was God’s favorite angel who later fell from God’s grace to become Satan, the Devil. Lucifer was also heaven’s choir director. If one thinks about musical lyrics that talk about violence, drugs, and sex in an inappropriate way in the sense that Lucifer was a choir director who later became Satan, explicit lyrics could affect someone in a negative way.
"I don’t know," said Butcher, when asked if explicit lyrics could affect someone later in their life. "Psychology is not an exact science, and it would take a study to see if inappropriate lyrics could affect someone later in life. He said that it would depend on how the mind perceived the lyrics and the message it sent. Everyone is different, so everyone perceives things differently."
Dr. Thomas Collins is a licensed psychologist and head psychologist for SAD 17. He has been a psychologist for 23 years and was a teacher before he became a psychologist. He is a clinical, adolescent, addictions, and forensic psychologist. When asked if Tipper Gore’s labels make any difference, he said that it only made a small difference on a small segment of the child/teenage population.
He said that parents that pay attention to the music that their children listen to may do it without the label. It may also reinforce parents who are checking, but it won’t make a difference in parents who don’t check what music their kids are listening to.
Your moods tend to be changed by the song you are listening to. We asked Dr. Collins about this, told us about music and the limbic system. The limbic system is a system in the brain that has to do with our emotional life and the formation of memories. He said that happy music has a quicker beat and the limbic system will get excited and the person will get excited.
Happy music can also trigger happy memories. Sad music has a slower and different beat than the happy music. It makes the limbic system slow down, and the person can appear to be sad. Sad lyrics may also trigger sad memories. It is the same with angry music.
When asked if he thinks that there is a certain genre of music that might affect people more than another, he said "not in general. People listen to music that is congruent to their mood."
If people are happy, they will be likely to listen to happy music. If they are sad, they might listen to sad music. But if a person who is depressed listened to happy music, their mood would improve.
After we asked Dr. Collins if he’d personally seen the effect of negative lyrics on teens, he told us about WAT.
W - What is the singer suggesting?
A - Attitude. What is the attitude the singer is trying to produce?
T - Timely. At my age level, is this music appropriate?
Music has changed a lot over the hundreds of years it’s been around, especially since Gore put labels on CDs. Now a lot of music in our culture is centered around sex and violence, and has profanities to compliment it.
Inappropriate lyrics may or may not put someone on the path of self destruction. It all depends on how the person listening takes it to heart. If a teen or even an adult, distinguish the violence and sex as something they should go out and do, and end up in prison, then it did affect them in a negative way.
But most people that listen to such lyrics don’t take them. They might just listen to it because they like the beat, or they may listen to it because it’s the only thing on the radio. Or, they may also listen to it because they like the lyrics, or understand a deeper meaning.