Research projects receive recognition
Tamonda Griffiths—News Writer
What was meant to be a small class project utilizing data has since turned into submissions to both the American Psychological Association and the Eastern Psychological Association.
Using Billboard charts for the music genres of pop, country and rap/R&B, psychology professor Patricia Kahlbaugh said her students in PSY 393: Experimental Methods decided to research how much the content of song lyrics changed from 1989 to 2017.
They also researched whether those lyrical changes reflected or shaped American culture.
“We didn’t do 30 years of music lyrics, it was two data points [1989 and 2017],” said Kahlbaugh, “and [the students] looked at the top 10 best songs of that – in that music genre— and the worst songs, meaning 90 to 100.”
The class, Kahlbaugh said, was compromised of seven students who were juniors and seniors.
The two studies conducted were titled Money, Sex, and Power: An Analysis of Song Lyrics from 1989 and 2017 and Lyrical Changes in Music from 1989 and 2017.
The data found as a result of the two studies, Kahlbaugh said, was a significant increase in the percentage of lyrics referencing sex and drugs in rap/R&B and pop music.
A decrease in lyrics pertaining to love between 1989 and 2017 was found as well, she said.
In 2017, the most popular songs of the genres had more mentions of materialism, empowerment and sex, as opposed to the least popular songs that did not mention them as much.
“[The students] just did a hatch mark for each time the theme was mentioned,” said Kahlbaugh.
In terms of country music, although little had changed in its references to love and sex, the data found in the past five to 10 years there was an increase in references to drug and alcohol
. “We chose those genres because we think those are the most popular today and, in the past,” said psychology major and one of the authors of the study titled Lyrical Changes in Music from 1989 and 2017 Tessa McNaboe. “I think everyone can kind of, you know, [generalize] with the fact that we all like, you know, both of those or all of those genres.”
“As I did more and more research in the project, I just became really fascinated with the concept,” said McNaboe, “and, like, what we were actually learning and what we were researching.”
One of the goals of their hypothesis, McNaboe said, was to examine whether the changes in music trends had affected any societal or cultural changes as well.
“We can’t make causation,” said McNaboe. “We’re just kind of connecting the dots, but we can’t say. We can’t say one does cause another.”
According to McNaboe, the results do correlate with the surge in hookup culture and substance abuse that was not as present in 1989.
It cannot be determined whether the changes have influenced one another.