New Study Claims Death Metal Music Inspires Joy, Not Violence
Australia’s proud tradition of academic inquiries into the emotional effects of heavy metal continues!
First, there was the University of Melbourne’s infamous 2011 study, which claimed that “Heavy metal music has negative impacts on youth.” The, in 2015, the University of Sydney did a study of their own, which asserted that metal musicians have the lowest life expectancy of any musician in any genre. Less depressingly, in 2015, the University of Queensland did their own study, which concluded that metal fans use the music for cathartic purposes, lowering ” levels of hostility, irritability and stress” while leaving the listener “feeling more active and inspired.” And most recently, in 2016, a study of the pollination of tomato plants in Australia found that bees bang their heads.
Which brings us to today! Yanan Sun, Xuejing Lu, Mark Williams, and William Forde Thompson, from Sydney’s Macquarie University, have published a new study in the Royal Society journal Open Science. Entitled “Implicit violent imagery processing among fans and non-fans of music with violent themes,” the study sought to learn “whether persistent exposure to music with violent themes affects implicit violent imagery processing.” Their findings suggest that that, no, listening to violent music doesn’t make you a violent person — in fact, quite the opposite.
For the study, the scientists recruited 48 participants who did not identify as metal fans, as well as 32 participants who identified themselves as fans not just of metal, but specifically, of metal with violent content. These participants were made to listen to two songs — Bloodbath’s “Eaten” and Pharrell Williams’ “Happy” — while “Violent and neutral pictures were simultaneously presented one to each eye, and participants indicated which picture they perceived (i.e. violent percept, neutral percept or blend of two) via key presses.” All eighty participants “exhibited a general negativity bias for violent imagery over neutral imagery regardless of the music genre.”
So what does all that mean, exactly? Thompson tells the BBC:
“If fans of violent music were desensitized to violence, which is what a lot of parent groups, religious groups and censorship boards are worried about, then they wouldn’t show this same bias. But the fans showed the very same bias towards processing these violent images as those who were not fans of this music.”
“The dominant emotional response to this music [from fans] is joy and empowerment. And I think that to listen to this music and to transform it into an empowering, beautiful experience – that’s an amazing thing.”
So the next time some idiot tries to blame violence on violent lyrics, take this study and shove it up their ass.