Listen with caution

Music’s influence on behavior debated



WSU student Hannah Fee listens to music while working on homework.

JUSTIN WASHINGTON, Evergreen research editor

We have all heard the line from parents or other adults in our lives that our music, games and t.v. shows are bad for us.
We should not play violent video games because we will end up committing violent crimes. We should not watch mature television shows because it encourages bad behavior. We should not listen to music genres like rap because the lyrics will inspire us to be someone we are not.
These claims are not necessarily false, but they are hotly debated.
Young children are the most likely demographic to be affected by violent and mature content. Children at a young age do not always have a grasp of what is right and wrong. They cannot always distinguish fantasy from reality.
At our age, we have a better understanding of morals and reality. I have played several violent video games and have watched many brutal scenes on shows, but I would not even punch someone, let alone murder them. This is because I know what is okay in a fictional setting versus the real world.
The debate is largely different when it comes to music. Music is perceived as an art form that encompasses identity and culture. Even when rooted in fantasy, the words and emotion behind the singer resonate with listeners as if they were real.
Lyrics aside, many people idolize singers and view them as role models.
In the midst of the debate over whether or not music causes deviant behavior, I think music can influence us to some degree. If not behavior, I believe our thoughts and perceptions can be affected by the songs we enjoy.
Jenna Tanna, junior animal science major, believes music can influence one’s mood and behavior. They bring up the idea of “harmful messaging” in music and how it influences our personalities.
“I think that lyrics normalizing or encouraging certain beliefs can be very effective and bad for people as a whole, regardless of age,” they said. “So much media has very objectifying messages, which can encourage people to view women as nothing more than objects of desire. Changing the way we depict women is important to influencing people’s beliefs.”
Tanna’s view reinforces what a lot of people believe. There is a large body of female musicians who glorify nudity and promiscuity. Music videos show as little clothing as possible and lyrics portray objectifying standards.
On an individual scale, this should not be an issue. Everyone has the right to express themselves so long as they are not harming others.
But this does not translate well when people view these singers as role models. Gender-conforming females might think that these ideals are what define women. Not only that, but men who are sexually attracted to women might expect the entire population to conform to those values.
How a singer portrays themselves affects more than just their image. This includes drug use and how many artists talk about getting high and becoming addicted as if it is a positive thing.
Freshman English major Allison Elwell said she believes music influences mood. Angry music could make us angry, while sad music could make us cry.
“Messages, whether good or bad, can influence people based on how many times they hear it,” she said.
The possible positive influence that Elwell talks about is equally important. There are a lot of people who get a positive experience from music. For example, the main reason why I listen to punk is because the lyrics often describe how I feel. It is nice to know that I am not alone in my pain.
For example, I feel lonely and misunderstood. These two feelings are common themes in punk music. Songs that bring attention to these feelings makes me feel validated.
But negative messaging in songs is a notable concern. One of the most common themes in modern music is money. Popular messages are: “Money is amazing,” “money defines your worth,” “money is what gets you fame, friends and love,” or “the person who has less money than you is worthy of being made fun of.”
Yes, this is how American society thinks in general, but it does not justify promoting greed through music.
I am not saying that music and certain bad messaging affects everyone. However, I believe it is obvious that music affects some people to some degree.
It is a concern because the music that contains the most negative messaging is not only the most popular but is played everywhere. Sporting events, clubs, gyms, radios and parties are just a few places.
It helps to be aware of these issues. It helps to connect to music and identify with it, but it should in no way influence anyone’s life negatively. Even if it is obvious to some, there is always a reason to be concerned about an individual going down a dark path because their favorite song told them to.