Master's Theses


Communication Studies

Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Verbal aggression has been labeled as a destructive or "dark" trait in interpersonal communication literature. This study will attempt to discover if verbally aggressive messages operate with the same destructive results when the medium changes to mass communication-specifically song lyrics. Verbal aggression has been studied in mass communication; however, the research examined the effects on receivers. This researcher was interested in the sender's perceived intent and reasons for using verbally aggressive messages in song lyrics. In order to explore the intent and reasons lyricists may use verbally aggressive messages in song lyrics, participants in this study were asked to imagine themselves or role play a lyricist. Attribution theory assists in explaining the way people interpret the causes of others' behavior (Littlejohn, 2002). In this study, participants' perceptions (attributions) of the lyrics will be compared to the intent of the actual lyricist. In this study, participants were asked to highlight verbally aggressive messages in three sets of song lyrics (Appendix D, E, & F). After highlighting the verbally aggressive messages, participants were asked to identify which tactic(s) was/were used by the lyricist (Appendix C). In addition, participants were asked to complete content questions where they role played as the sender, receiver and an audience member of the verbally aggressive message. Finally, participants were asked to complete a 24 question survey. The results of the study discovered that verbally aggressive messages were present in these song lyrics. Also, the same tactics in interpersonal communication literature were present in these song lyrics. The majority of participants cited emotions as the reason the lyricist used verbally aggressive messages and the intent was a form of self-therapy for the lyricist. The majority also agreed that as audience members the messages did not cause psychological harm.


Carolyn Sue Strohkirch

Date of Award

Summer 2007

Document Type

Thesis - campus only access


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