Rock makes you racist, claims study

06.03.12

In “:O” news, just a few minutes of rock or indie will make white people favour whites over other races, while pop music, with its greater variety of ethnic identities has no bias, apparently.

Researchers at the University of Minnesota tested 138 people by asking them to decide how to allocate university funds according to four supposedly racial centres – of African American Studies, Latino American Studies, Arab American Studies, and Rural and Agricultural Studies. Before they went in they were played music of different genres.

After listening to rock & roll like The White Stripes and Bruce Springsteen, respondents allocated 35% of funds to the “white” group, leaving the remaining three groups with 22% each. Another group were played a random selection of pop music from Gwen Stefani to Akon, and divided the funds up 25% each way. A further, some would say unnecessary, control was conducted by subjecting people to overtly racist music, with this group allocating 40% of funds to the farmers, with every other group receiving a 20% each.

“Rock music is generally associated with white Americans, so we believe it cues white listeners to think about their positive association with their own in-group,’ said Heather LaMarre, assistant professor of journalism and mass communication at the University of Minnesota, to The Daily Mail. “That was enough for them to show more support for a student group representing mostly whites.”

“Music has a lot of power to influence our thoughts and actions, more than we often recognize,” said associate professor Silvia Knobloch-Westerwick. “It has the power to reinforce our positive biases toward our own group, and sometimes negative biases toward others.”

Postscript: While this study’s findings make for very interesting headlines, there are some obvious points of cynicism that should be raised here, from the small sample size to the crude description of rock & roll as white music. Most notable of these is the student bodies themselves – that the Centres of African American Studies, Latino American Studies and Arab American Studies should have a racial leaning is obvious, but the classification of the “Centre for Rural and Agricultural Studies” as “white” seems at least questionable. Presuming the sample size is large enough to make any conclusions whatsoever, could listening to rock simply make people more into farming?