Problem music or problem stereotypes? The dynamics of stereotype activation in rock and hip-hop musicMusicae Scientiae


A. Negut, P. Sarbescu
Experimental and Cognitive Psychology / Music


Musicae Scientiae

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DOI: 10.1177/1029864913499180 2014 18: 3 originally published online 4 September 2013Musicae Scientiae

Alexandra Negut and Paul Sârbescu rock and hip-hop music

Problem music or problem stereotypes? The dynamics of stereotype activation in

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DOI: 10.1177/1029864913499180 499180 MSX18110.1177/1029864913499180Musicae ScientiaeNegut¸ and Sârbescu 2013

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Paul Sârbescu, Psychology Department, West University of Timis¸oara, Bld. V. Pârvan, 4, Timis¸oara, 300233, Romania.


Problem music or problem stereotypes? The dynamics of stereotype activation in rock and hip-hop music

Alexandra Negut¸

West University of Timis¸oara, Romania

Paul Sârbescu

West University of Timis¸oara, Romania


The main objective of this research was examining the dynamics of stereotype activation in rock and hip-hop music, through the exposure of participants to priming (specific information of stereotypical nature, about the two music genres). The comparative experimental research was performed on a sample of 72 participants, aged between 19 and 21, using The Multidimensional Iowa Suggestibility Scale (short form) and The Lyrics Evaluation Scale. The research used a one-factorial experimental design with the two experimental conditions (absence or presence of priming) realized between groups. In the experiment, participants listened to eight songs belonging to the two music genres and evaluated the lyrics of the songs. The results have shown that stereotype activation occurs in the experimental group, through the more negative evaluation of the songs listened to, in comparison with the control group. The dynamics of stereotype activation is discussed in relation to theories postulated in the field. The implications of these results are discussed, pointing out the idea that the negative outcomes related to these music genres might owe more to the negative stereotypes associated with them than to the music itself.

Keywords cognitive load, hip-hop music, priming, rock music, stereotypes

Rock and hip-hop are two music genres which are said to have caused controversy among parents, public institutions, media and academics for over two decades (Brown & Campbell, 1986; Hansen & Hansen, 1990, 1991; Mulder, ter Bogt, Raaijmakers, & Vollenberg, 2007;

Selfhout, Delsing, ter Bogt, & Meeus, 2008; Sherman & Dominick, 1986). As a consequence, for protecting the youth against the negative effects that rock and hip-hop have on behavior, censorship has become a common practice in countries like the United States, Mexico, France,

Article at TEXAS SOUTHERN UNIVERSITY on November 6, 2014msx.sagepub.comDownloaded from 4 Musicae Scientiae 18(1)

Turkey, Lebanon, Palestine, Israel, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Afghanistan, North Korea and

Romania (Binder, 1993; Nuzum, 2001; Korpe, 2004).

Rock and hip-hop music have been very often considered as problem music because they are believed to promote aggressive behavior, encourage drug and alcohol abuse, sexual promiscuity and satanic practices (Anderson, Carnagey, & Eubanks, 2003; Bashe, 1985; Gan, Zillmann, & Mitrook, 1997; Greenfield et al., 1987; Hansen, 1995; Hansen & Hansen, 1991; North &

Hargreaves, 2006; Selfhout et al., 2008; Took & Weiss, 1994). A common concern among both the media and researchers is the possible link between rock and hip-hop music and suicidal thoughts or attempts (King, 1988; Litman & Farberow, 1994; Martin, Clarke, & Pearce, 1993;

Stack, Gundlach, & Reeves, 1994). Although studies on the harmful effects are not conclusive (Ballard & Coates, 1995; Greenfield et al., 1987; North & Hargreaves, 2006; Rustad, Small,

Jobes, Safer, & Peterson, 2003), a stigma is put upon these music genres, as they are considered deviant genres (Mulder et al., 2007), rebellious rhapsodies (Reddick & Beresin, 2002) and deviant music (Lynxwiler & Gay, 2000).

We could argue that nowadays neither genre can be labeled as ‘deviant’ anymore, because a lot of rock and hip-hop artists can be seen on popular music channels worldwide such as MTV or on international charts such as Billboard. However, these music genres have many subgenres, and while some of them can be considered mainstream, others remain underground.

As an example, MTV Networks owns another two music channels playing rock and hip-hop underground music – MTV 2 and MTV Jams. Although a clear distinction between mainstream and underground subgenres/artists is beyond the goal of this paper, we must specify that despite their current popularity, rock and hip-hop still raise concern among media and academics (Mulder, ter Bogt, Raaijmakers, & Vollenberg, 2007; Reyna et al., 2009; Selfhout, Delsing, ter

Bogt, & Meeus, 2008). For instance, in the case of rock, this situation is quite similar to the late ’80s when, although rock music was very popular among teens, it was still considered a deviant genre (Brown & Campbell, 1986; Hansen & Hansen, 1991; Sherman & Dominick, 1986).

Overall, the main focus in the study of rock and hip-hop music and adolescent behavior regards the correlates of listening to these music styles and harmful behavioral outcomes.