Censorship groups like Tipper Gore’s infamous PMRC have harangued parents for decades, warning that listening to aggressive music like “gangsta” rap or heavy metal can transform a normal kid into an angry, suicidal delinquent. However, researchers who have investigated the emotional effects of aggressive or sad music have found that the exact opposite to be true.
A recent study examined the psychological attributes of fans of “problem” music, such as hip hop, metal, or punk, and compared them to people who disliked these genres of music. No significant differences were found between the two groups in terms of personality traits, but fans of “problem” genres were found to use music to regulate their emotional states more than non-fans. The researchers concluded that “problem” music fans may be less likely to exhibit anti-social behavior than non-fans because they are better able to deal with their emotions through listening to emotionally charged music.
Another study found that aggressive music actually reduced anger and increased positive emotions when listened to by fans of that style of music. Subjects in the study generally experienced a level heart rate while listening to aggressive music, and reported that they felt as calm and relaxed as a control group who were not listening to music at all.
A number of studies have also found that many adolescents turn to sad or depressing music in order to help deal with sadness. Participants in these studies reported that listening to sad music would temporarily increase their negative feelings, but enabled them to feel better in the long-term, or to “get over” sadness sooner.