Thursday, 20 January 2011

How Michael Jackson's Heal The World really could help heal the world


"Heal The World
Make It A Better Place
For You And For Me
And The Entire Human Race"
So much research has looked at the effects of violent music lyrics and video-games on people's aggressiveness, but what about the effects of media with a positive message? Can songs like Michael Jackson's Heal the World and Bob Sinclair's Love Generation change people's behaviour for the better? Tobias Greitemeyer says this side of the media-behaviour equation has been neglected before now, but in a series of five studies conducted in Germany and the UK he's shown that 'pro-social' music reduces people's aggression. What's more, he's demonstrated that it appears to do so through its effect on mood and emotion rather than via changes to thoughts and cognition.

Greitemeyer's general approach was to have half his participants listen to a few pro-social songs, the others listen to neutral songs, and then all of them complete various questionnaires or tasks, depending on the specific experiment.

Further examples of pro-social songs used in the experiments include Michael Jackson and Lionel Richie's We Are The World (among the biggest selling singles of all time) and U2's Vertigo. Among the neutral songs used were Michael Jackson's On The Line and Bob Sinclair's Rock This Party. Greitemeyer deliberately chose some pro-social and neutral songs by the same artists so as to control for the effects of the actual singer and general style.

Participants who listened to pro-social songs subsequently showed reduced aggressive cognitions - for example they were less likely to complete ambiguous word stems (e.g. 'schla_' in German) with violent endings (e.g. 'schlagen', to hit), choosing instead more peaceful endings (e.g. 'schlafen' to sleep). They also exhibited reduced aggressive mood, being less likely to say they felt angry or irritated.

Most importantly, participants who listened to Heal the World and other pro-social songs were less likely than participants who listened to neutral music to actually be aggressive. This was tested indirectly by having participants evaluate a job candidate. Apparently this is a common measure in the aggression field, with harsh judgements being taken as a sign of indirect aggression. Aggressive behaviour was tested directly in another experiment by giving participants the chance to choose how much chilli sauce another student would have to eat, having heard that he or she hated chilli. This student had earlier given the participants an unfair essay evaluation so there was a temptation to be aggressive.

In the final experiment, when Greitemeyer looked to see whether it was cognitions or mood that mediated the effect of pro-social songs on aggressive behaviour, he found it was mood or 'affect' that was key. Intriguingly, this is the opposite to what's been found for video-games, in which case it's changes to cognitions, not affect, that mediates the influence, for better or worse, of violent or pro-social games on subsequent aggression.

'Music exposure is omnipresent in our daily life,' Greitemeyer concluded. 'Thus, the present findings are not only of theoretical significance, but have important practical implications as well, in suggesting that depending on the context of the song lyrics music exposure may reduce aggressive encounters.'
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ResearchBlogging.orgGreitemeyer, T. (2011). Exposure to music with prosocial lyrics reduces aggression: First evidence and test of the underlying mechanism. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 47 (1), 28-36 DOI: 10.1016/j.jesp.2010.08.005

Post written by Christian Jarrett (@psych_writer) for the BPS Research Digest.

9 comments:

  1. Anonymous6:14 pm

    Heal the World is about love. I love this song and when I listen to it, I feel love in my heart, about people, all people. It only makes sense that is you listen to lyrics about love, nature, good things, you will be more at peace...therefore less aggressive.

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  2. The MICHAEL JACKSON IS WONDERFUL, unique, incomparable, irreplaceable, eternal, magnificent, splendid.
    A KING IN EVERYTHING WE DO, THE GOD OF MUSIC AND DANCE.
    YOUR WORK OF ART FOR MUSIC AND DANCE SAO splendid. The MICHAEL DOES EVERYTHING WITH LOVE AND LOVE FOR THE PEOPLE, THE PLANET, THE NATURE ...
    HE PUTS LOVE, HUMILITY, KINDNESS, LIGHT, KINDNESS, CARING IN EVERYTHING WE DO. SO ALL THAT MIKE IS PERFECT IS COME, and incomparable, and IINSUBSTITUIVEL and eternal.
    Michael is AWESOME, LOVE IN PERSON.
    MIKE It's beautiful, charming, KIND, CARING, NOBLE, charitable, A TRUE ANGEL!

    ReplyDelete
  3. Anonymous5:05 pm

    Michael tried so hard. I hope the world doesn't let him down. Peace, Love, & Righteousness yall'.

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  4. mspape9:44 pm

    I get an instant fight/flight reaction when hearing this song. Guess most people opt for flight and just 'beat it', so to speak - so that all in all, there's nobody to aggress against!

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  5. Vermine11:42 am

    Weak conclusions.
    So shortsighted, looking only at the impact on the very very short term.

    Aggressive music can also be an exutory, a buffer for the aggressiveness we all have inside us.
    And it's probably way better on the long run to channel aggressivity.

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  6. Unfortunately, I only just watched the sci-fi film Serenity (http://amzn.to/gBGmdV) and now cannot help but wonder how a bathing in Michael Jackson might affect the 5% who experience contra-indications from the treatment :)

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  7. Anonymous7:32 am

    THE kind is music MJ have produced is not that good to heal this blood thirsty world

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  8. Watch this video and tell us if his music has an impact on you:

    http://vimeo.com/12982742

    Visit our site and leave us a comment:

    www.onemoregeneration.org

    ReplyDelete
  9. Anonymous11:52 pm

    I think all Michael Jackson music has positive effects on people, his own music and songs which were of others and he sang but of course in prosocial songs the effects are more visible, evident... Listen Man In The Mirror, Heal The World, We Are The World, What More Can I give?, Earth Song, etceteras...

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