Friday, June 17, 2011

Friday fun: Psychology songs

Like many people who study psychology, I can't help but see it everywhere - including songs that were clearly not intended to be Psych 101 textbook supplemental material (though they should be!). The following is a list of some of my favorite psych-relevant songs.

Altruism: Give a little love, Ziggy Marley

Attraction: What I like about you, The Romantics

Attributions: Blame it on the rain, Milli Vanilli

Attachment anxiety: Without you, Mariah Carey

Attachment avoidance: I'm like a bird, Nelly Furtado

Conformity: Another brick in the wall, Pink Floyd

Cognitive Dissonance: Not an addict, K's Choice

Delay of gratification (failure): Instant pleasure, Rufus Wainwright

Fundamental attribution error: What would you do? City High

Hindsight bias: I never told you, Colbie Caillat

Jealousy: Mr. Brightside, The Killers

Nature vs. Nurture: Born this way, Lady Gaga

Obedience: We do what we're told (Milgram's 37), Peter Gabriel

Optimism: Three little birds, Bob Marley

Perspective-taking: What it's like, Everlast

Power: Independent women, Destiny's Child

Prejudice and discrimination: Across the lines, Tracey Chapman

Self-complexity: Bitch, Meredith Brooks

Self-discrepancy theory: I wish, Skee-Lo

Self-esteem (high): Beautiful, Christina Aguilera

Self-esteem (low): Creep, Radiohead

Self-improvement: Man in the mirror, Michael Jackson

Spotlight effect: All eyez on me, Tupac

Social exchange theory: Doing too much, Paula DeAnda

Social support: I'll be there, Jackson 5

Variable reward: Hot 'n cold, Katy Perry

These songs are mostly related to social and personality psychology. For a longer list that includes other areas of psychology, see this compilation put together by Ann Weber. Some psychology professors have found it helpful to play topic-relevant songs at the beginning of each class as students are coming in, or to incorporate music in other ways. If you have any songs to add to the list, please share them in the comments section!

Further reading:

Napoletano, Margo (1988). Teaching adolescent psychology using popular song lyrics Psychological Reports, 62 (3), 975-978


  1. Just found your BLOG. Love it! Getting ready to start MFT Graduate program in Southern California. This will definitely be a regular stop on my journey over the next two years. Thanks!


  2. Thanks Daniel! So glad you like the blog. We look forward to hearing your thoughts on future posts!


  3. Without You by Mariah Carey?
    Badfinger or Nilsson would surely be a better example than what can only be described as an aural insult by Ms Carey.

  4. Mariah's version seemed especially anxious to me, but there are other good ones - thanks for pointing that out! This was a hard category because there are so many love songs that could qualify...

  5. In college, we made a music video about cognitive psychology. It's pretty funny!

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  7. Hi! Just discovered your blog and really enjoying it. It's funny I often think about the psych categories certain songs would fit into also (I sometimes tweet them!) If you're interested, here is my psych blog!

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  9. There's Thomas Dolby's song Hyperactive (about ADHD?)