Archive for October, 2011

Extreme forms of music lead to extreme forms of behaviour. This seems to be the current belief system around which people stereotype music, that people who listen to rap, grunge or heavy metal will be more inclined to commit crimes such as drug taking, suicide and assault, have lower standards or expectations of women and become anti-social. Yet is it correct? The connection, if there is one at all, may be pointing in the right direction. It may not be that the behaviour of listening to these forms of music creates a personality type, rather that a personality type will seek out these forms of music.

 Many people who listen to these forms of music are already experiencing difficulties with their life before hand (this is often overseen by people who immediately look for the stereotype) and it is not the music that creates the problems.  Took & Weiss (1994) found that while heavy metal fans tended to have lower grades in school, they experienced these before listening to heavy metal music, and  Walker & Kreiner, (2006) found that college students who listened to alternative music actually scored higher on IQ tests, especially where abstraction was required.

Extreme music also suffers a negative view from worries about self-esteem. Famous suicides such as that of Kurt Cobain and studies such as Johnson et al. (1995) which found that women would become more accepting of violence against women relationship after viewing rap videos have lead people to believe that these forms of music have a negative effect on self-esteem. Some of these studies however give a bad view of the subject,  Kemper & Danhauer, (2005) found that grunge music lead to higher levels of fatigue, tension, sadness and hostility in participants, yet grunge music was not their preffered form of music

 However, there are positive studies, such as that of Ferguson (2007) which found that teenagers for whom answered “rap is an important part of my life” had higher self-esteem across all ethnicities. Also, as with before, people with self-esteem issues may seek out these forms of music, Wooten (1992) found that heavy metal fans who were also psychiatric patients had an improved mood after listening to their music, moving from aggressive to happy.

This leads to an important ethical consideration, that we may be stereotyping people in an incorrect way. There are so many people with so many beliefs that stereotypes must occur, yet self fulfilling prophecy shows us that it can lead to changing people’s behaviour after being labelled with a specific personality trait, even if it is not true. So while this tells us that a stereotype creates a behaviour, we have seen from these studies that personality type leads to a behaviour, which in this case is listening to these forms of extreme music. Stereotypes allow us to show information about a certain group of people, yet by incorrectly stereotyping these people, are they more likely to move towards behaviours that are unrelated to the very behaviour that we stereotyped them for? We have seen that extreme forms of music can be beneficial to a person ( Ferguson (2007) and Wooten (1992)) yet they may fall into this stereotype of anti-social anyway.

We have seen reliability from many studies that it is the personality that creates the behaviour of searching out extreme music, and not the behaviour of music leading to anti-social behaviours. Took and Weiss (1994) showed this as did Becknell et al. (2008) who found that rock and metal fans are more likely to be risk takers, showing that their less reactive nervous system led to them seeking out a more intense stimuli.

The research points mostly in a positive direction, that a personality type such as that of a reckless person leads them to seek out music that is more stimulating to them, and it is the environment, not the music that creates problems associated with the music (Took and Weiss 1994).





Read Full Post »

War is a terrifying thing. Luckily, we live in a country that goes to war very rarely, and with the invention of super powers (united countries, not spiderman) and the prospect of mutually assured destruction,  it appears that we won’t have to fight a large scale war for many, many years to come. However, wars still occur. Our army is currently in use occupying other countries and is experiencing resistance from terrorist forces within them. The wounds that these battles leave upon a soldier do not just take the form of physical wounds. Bullets and explosions do more than hurt the body, they can easily damage the mind. Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is known to have a higher expectancy in soldiers that have been deployed, yet the mental health charity “Combat Stress” says that soldiers are expected to “crack on”, declaring that 85% of veterans are too embarrased to admit problems, and one in three fail to tell their family (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-15239045). Also, around 25% of the people touring Iraq and Afganistan could be battling mental health problems such as PTSD, anxiety or depression. So what has the military done about this?
According to the article, 5,000 personel have been trained to detect signs of mental disorders within other members of the army, yet as it is the army and so must deal with so many people, the only feasible way of actually processing anything will be through self-report data. For example, this mental health evaluation form for the Louisiana based Fort Polk (http://www.jrtc-polk.army.mil/fpig/MEDDAC514MSEREQUEST.pdf) shows that a commander must put a person in for an evaluation. This means that either the commander or the person suffering must detect the signs of the disorder and it is unlikely for the person to come forward considering that 85% of veterans feel embarrased about admitting to their disability. In which case, it is up to the commander, who has a lot of men and women to both comand and look after, leaving it open to the possibility that a suffering person is not recognised. Self-report data in this situation can be an unreliable research method due to the many ways in which it can become lost or unidentified.

Also, the form indicates that the patient has two days before the evaluation takes place. Considering how dangerous the environment that they live in is, should this not be sooner? Leaving a mentally unstable person in a position where they can cause harm to themselves and those around them is a fairly unethical position to take, in two days of patrolling three times a day a person can come to significant risk and given their state of mind, should we really leave them there, if only for two days? The form does state that in an emergency the patient can be put up for evaluation immediately, but if a commander is unsure, a patient can be left for this period of time.

It is difficult to suggest an alternative to self-report or peer review (the commander reviewing the soldier) for this as it would take too long and be expenisve for the army to hire psychologists to give mental health evaluations to each soldier every few months. The army is a dangerous place, both in body and in mind and people who sign up are aware of the risks, yet this does not mean that the army should not take care of them. It does attempt to, yet with an organisation as big as it is, it is difficult to care for absolutely everyone.

Read Full Post »

When attempting to create a relationship between two variables, it is best to discover which of the variables affects the other. If by the end of an experiment you have discovered which is the dependent variable and which is the independent variable, you will have created a much more valid study than one which simply finds a connection, as you can then start investigating to what extent the IV affects the DV.

Yet what if you have indeed found a connection, yet the methods you used to imply that connection ended being the reason it occured? In 2006, Fillmore et al. conducted a meta-analysis of 54 studies looking at moderate alcohol use and if it had an effect on a person’s health. The studies all seemed to indicate that a moderate use of alcohol could give a person a healthier heart, yet Fillmore found that many of the studies (47 of them) hadn’t randomly divided the participants into groups of drinkers and non-drinkers. Instead, it was a comparison between people who drank regularly and people who couldn’t drink because they were either a) old or b) dying. Now we know why the drinkers had healthier hearts. Not because of drinking, but because they were not ill or too old. So by not using the correct method, the studies found a connection that was in fact not there. Random assignment would have shown that this connection did not exist, any other assignment could have left the bias intact.

Random assignment ensures that participants in a cause and effect study are unbiased as it prevents people’s history from causing an extraneous variable within the experiment. Only for ethical reasons should it be changed; many of the studies could not have used this as it means they would have had to convince non-drinkers to drink. Many of the teetotallers had their own reasons for not drinking alcohol, meaning that the scientists would have had to either force them to drink  (highly unethical) or drop them from the study, leaving them with just drinkers who they would have had to convince not to drink, this dictation of a way of life could again be highly unethical. So we can see just how difficult it is to use random assignment in some cases, yet in others experiments wherein the participants past cannot make a large impact, I consider it to be the best assignment type available.




Interesting alcohol related fact: A brewery tank ruptured in a London Parish in 1814, releasing 3,500 barrels worth of beer, destroying two houses and killing nine people.

Read Full Post »