Heavy metal and aggressiveness: does extreme music make us violent?

Punk, metal, hard rock … are genres that are almost automatically associated with
aggressiveness and the voltage.

However, a recent article in the journal Frontiers in Human Neuroscience suggests that far from turning all listeners into raging beasts, these musical genres could help them regulate their emotions and foster the emergence of positive emotions and moods.

Bring violence to guitars

Extreme rock music meets all the demands of the bad press: a young audience with an odd aesthetic, often politically incorrect lyrics, and cultural references that seem to come from
Game of thrones. But it is possible that what characterizes this type of music the most is its energetic mind, The outbursts of aggression which are reflected both in the instruments and in the singers’ voices and, often, also in the lyrics of the songs.

In previous articles, we have talked about the relationship between musical tastes and intelligence. Additionally, we also echoed a study linking musical preferences to personality.

As happened with the
video gamesMuch public opinion and media opinion leaders have tended to condemn and stigmatize extreme music for the depictions of the violence it is often associated with. It seems almost obvious that listening to aggressive music inoculates aggression in people, yet hardly any scientific evidence to that effect.

yes there are studies pointing in the opposite direction. According to some research, music is not used to induce extreme emotional states, but is generally used to regulate emotions and restore some emotional balance in the body.

The article published in Frontiers in Human Neuroscience reinforces this last hypothesis. The research team that wrote it investigated whether these regulatory effects of music were also applicable to extreme genres such as metal, characterized by frantic drumbeats and a singing style that often turns into poignant cries.

How was the experiment carried out?

The researchers used a sample of 39 people, men and women between 18 and 34 years old, fond of certain genres of extreme music (metal in all its variations, punk, hardcore punk, screamo, etc.). Specifically, participants had to be used to listening to one or more of these genres for at least 50% of the time they spent listening to music on a daily basis.

All the participants in the experiment went through the so-called “anger interview”,
a 16-minute interview aimed at provoking a state of anger in the experimental subject by recalling specific situations likely to arouse feelings of anger or indignation. Right after this experience, some of these people spent 10 minutes listening to the music of their choice (they were wearing their music players). In this way, the researchers made sure that the members of the group of volunteers who were to listen to music would choose pieces of music that they would normally listen to when they were angry. For their part, those who should not hear anything waited 10 minutes.

The researchers focused on verifying the effects of this little music session on the volunteers’ emotions. To do this, before, during and after the 10 minutes of music,
these people were subjected to various instruments to measure moods. Specifically, they used the heart rate reading and the application of various questionnaires on subjective psychological states.


The results show how hostility and anger levels decrease when listening to extreme music to the same degree that these emotions were reduced in people who waited silently, away from their audio devices. This could be explained by the regulating effect of the music or by the passage of 10 minutes. Outraged,
the group of people who went through 10 minutes of extreme music tended to feel more relaxed and well-being.

This means that the extreme music not only did not produce feelings of anger, but did not heighten the slight anger people felt when turning on audio playback devices.

Generally speaking, this research shows how fans of metal and other similar genres listen to this type of music during episodes of anger, perhaps to regulate emotionally, and that this type of music does not translate into sustenance. of these states.

Bibliographical references:

  • Saarikallio, S. and Eerkkilä (2007). The role of music in regulating the mood of adolescents. Psychology of Music, 35 (1), pages 88-109.
  • Sharman, L. and Dingle, GA (2015). Extreme metal music and anger treatment. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, available at http://journal.frontiersin.org/article/10.3389/fnhum.2015.00272/full#B2

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