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January 2023

The use of songwriting as an assessment of anxiety in adults

Abstract: This study involves the design of an instrument to use songwriting as a measure of anxiety. Anxiety is a pervasive psychological phenomena, occuring in nearly all psychopathology and is the primary component in anxiety disorders. For identification and treatment, it is important to accurately assess anxiety in order to treat it effectively. The premise of this study is that songwriting can be used as a projective test and, as such, provides an accurate measure of anxiety. This study involves two parts. First, a procedure was designed in which subjects write lyrics to a prerecorded melody and harmony. This was administered by trained testers to twelve adults, one male and eleven females ranging in age from 23 to 42 years old. A preexisting measure of anxiety, the State-Trait Anxiety Inventory (STAI) was also completed. The STAI is a proven measure of anxiety which yield two scores, one for state anxiety (the amount of anxiety experienced at the present moment), the other for trait anxiety (the tendency toward anxiety a a personal trait). Secondly, the study involves the construction and initial testing of the Songwriting Assessment Scale (SAAS), a scale which converts song lyrics into a numerical anxiety rating. The songs were scored by two raters with doctorate training in psychology. These scores were correlated with the STAI to assess accuracy of the SAAS in measuring anxiety. A null hypothesis was advanced, that there would be no statistically significant correlations of the SAAS: 1. as an entire scale with State or Trait STAI scores; and 2. as individual sections with either State or Trait STAI scores. A Pearson product correlation was used to correlate the STAI and SAAS scores as well as to measure interrater reliability. The null hypothesis was upheld; that is, there were no statistically significant correlations between the SAAS and State or Trait STAI. However, several interesting trends emerged. While the SAAS does not appear to measure State anxiety, there was a trend toward positive correlations between Trait anxiety and the entire scale, and positive correlations between the affective / cognitive indicators section and Trait STAI. In addition, interrater reliability was significant at the p < .05 level for the entire scale, and was significant for a number of sections. Thus, this method of using songwriting as an assessment of anxiety may have some merit as a method of assessing Trait anxiety. Problems with the study are discussed, and suggestions for future studies are advanced.

Keyword(s): Songwriting, assessment, adult, anxiety, state-trait-anxiety-inventory.

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