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Why “The Star-Spangled Banner” Makes Sports More Violent

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Over the last decade, one of the most fascinating areas of research in psychological science has been the study of “priming” behavior. Social scientists found, for example, that a reminder of mortality, such as “orange alerts,” primes voters to choose a strong, charismatic leader; and marketers proved that $3000 handbags in store windows help prime shoppers to consider $100 T-shirts a bargain. But perhaps the most powerful “prime mover” is music, which can change our moods and our behavior within seconds — whether we are aware of it or not.In this latest report, from Kansas State University, researchers looked at the positive and negative responses stimulated by music lyrics from a variety of song categories, including patriotic (“The Star-Spangled Banner”), secular and religious Christmas (“Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” and “O Holy Night”) as well as neutral children’s songs, like “Itsy Bitsy Spider.” After listening to the songs, study participants filled out a survey that asked questions about their religion, their attitude toward other cultures, and diversity. Half completed the survey before the …

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