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Doctoral Student Tamar Brown Researches Violent Urban Music Lyrics and How They Affect Young Men


CLAIR student Tamar Brown’s single authored paper, “Turn down the volume, son!: The ways Black boys consume violent urban music and its impact,” was selected as a finalist for the Graduate Student Research Excellence Award at this year’s American Educational Research Association (AERA) Annual Meeting.

Brown became intrigued about learning more information on this topic after hearing anecdotal evidence and engaging in conversations with many people about violent urban music and its effects on the behavior of young black males. But when she tried to find established research evidence of this often discussed phenomena, she found very little information. Although there are organizations that provide ratings for TV and movies, Brown believes ratings information could be meaningful for music lyrics, too.

Her research involves interaction of two main variables, moderation and volume. Specifically, one of the questions she seeks to answer is whether the level of aggression observed in black boys is greater when they listen to violent urban music at a higher volume. In addition, Brown plans to expand her research to consider the effects of violent urban music on boys in other ethnic groups and perhaps seek to partner with other researchers and music label companies in this work.

For her dissertation and throughout her post-doctoral fellowship, Brown intends to contribute to existing data about not only violent urban music videos, but also specifically about the lyrics used in violent urban music. In this area, she would like to expand upon George Gerber’s cultivation theory (originally about television), which hypothesizes that heavy media users are exposed to more violence and are therefore affected by the “Mean World Syndrome”, an idea that the world is worse than it actually is. Brown would like to explore whether violent music lyrics desensitize the listener to violence and whether that in turn affects the listener’s behavior.

More particularly, Brown would like to examine these questions using social learning theory. Social learning theory combines the ideas of cognitive learning theory, which posits that learning is influenced by psychological factors, and behavioral learning theory, which assumes that learning is based on responses to environmental stimuli. Put simply for the listener, does what you see and hear in violent urban music videos and lyrics become “normal” and ultimately affect your behavior?

Under the guidance of CLAIR Professor Fran Blumberg, Brown will collect data for her research from approximately 100-150 boys, ages 14-17 years old, evenly distributed by race. Her study will measure the boys’ exposure to violent urban music and their level of physical and verbal aggressiveness and motives. The control factors considered for each subject will include high school GPA, family income level, and the volume at which the subjects listen to urban music.

Brown noted, “I am excited about contributing to the data on this subject, and I am thrilled to have the opportunity to work with Professor Blumberg as I continue to expand my research.”


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