Racism and Rockism – Tom

You know the study which showed how playing French music could make people buy French wine? Well, here’s a rather more controversial piece along similar lines.

White students at the University of Ohio took part in a study which asked them to allocate funds to deserving student bodies – but before taking part, they sat in a waiting room where background music played – either rock music, Top 40 pop, or explicitly racist music by “white power” bands. Those exposed to the Nazi music allocated the least funds to African-American and Arab-American student groups, and the most funds to mostly white groups. But the students who were played rock music (like Springsteen and the White Stripes) ALSO allocated less money to non-whites and more to whites. People who were played Top 40 (with more multi-ethnic performers) gave roughly equal amounts to all three groups. Scary stuff, and an example of how the power of priming works in quite uninentional ways, particularly with something as abstract and emotional as music.

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