Music and weedwackers have a lot to do with each other. For example, last weekend I used our weedwacker to trim the edges of our lawn. To get it started, I have to push a little plastic bubble on the side of the engine to prime the engine. Trimming my lawn, combined with a conversation with a colleague this week, reminded me of a couple of studies that help explain how sexual media content can affect us, and our children. In the first study researchers had half the participants listen to sexually explicit lyrics in songs sung by the likes of Madonna and Janet Jackson under the guise that the music would help clear their mind. The other half listened to music with non-sexual lyrics. Study participants then viewed online dating profiles of three people of the opposite sex and were asked to rate the profiles on several attributes, including sexual desirability. Results showed that people who listened to the sexual lyrics rated the online profiles as more sexually desirable. In other words, simply listening to sexual music got participants thinking about sexual things, which in turn biased their subsequent perceptions of fictional people they had never met!
In a similar follow-up study, respondents again listened to either sexual or non-sexual lyrics. But this time, they reviewed several resumes as if they were on the hiring committee. Again, those who listened to the sexual lyrics rated the people from the resumes as more racy, sexy, and naughty than those who listened to the non-sexual lyrics. Further, these sexual ratings were in turn related to the participants rating the people from the resumes as having better character. Just as pushing that little plastic bubble on the side of the weedwacker primes the weedwacker’s pump, the media content we and our children listen to can bring those topics to the front of our minds, thereby biasing our attitudes, behaviors, and evaluations of our life experiences. Scary? Yes. But it should work the other way too. By frequently and regularly filling our and our kids’ minds with positive messages, those messages can have the same biasing effect on us, and them. So, let’s start talking to our kids. Let’s talk enough so that our messages are more frequent and regular than media messages about the same topics.