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Study: Music Is Becoming More Narcissistic


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Explicit bragging and self-congratulation used to be a phenomenon of rap music. Now, according to a study conducted by University of Michigan-Dearborn psychology professors Pamela McAuslan and Marie, Waung it's pervasive in all popular genres. The Pacific Standard describes their research method:

McAuslan and Waung analyzed the lyrics of the top 100 songs from the years 1990, 2000, and 2010, as compiled by Billboard magazine. (Its ratings are based on sales, streaming, radio airplay, and “audience impressions.”) Coders looked for examples of eight categories of self-promotion, including referring to oneself by name and demanding respect.

More recent songs demonstrated increased narcissism:

“Compared with earlier years, songs in 2010 were more likely to include the singer referring to the self by name, general self-promotion, and bragging about wealth, partner’s appearance, or sexual prowess,” the researchers report. “A similar, albeit nonsignificant increase, was also seen for bragging about musical prowess and demands for respect. Overall, the most popular music from 2010 contained more self-promotion than music from 1990 or 2000.”

McAuslan and Waung assert that this trend reflects a cultural shift about the role of the self in society:

“Music both reflects and influences the values of the culture,” McAuslan and Waung write. The hit songs we listen to “both represent the increasing individualistic/narcissistic tendencies in the culture, but also further convey that promoting oneself through bragging, demands for respect, and self-focus is acceptable.”

-via Jonah Goldberg


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