Headbangers who revel in the sometimes gruesome lyrics of death metal bands are no more desensitised to violence than those who prefer upbeat pop tunes, according to a new study.
The report by researchers at Macquarie University in Sydney, published in the Royal Society Open Science journal, was based on a classic psychological experiment in which volunteers are simultaneously shown an innocuous image in one eye and and a shocking or violent one in the other.
Past results show that participants tend to be drawn to the violent image, which scientists have theorised could be the result of an innate survival mechanism alerting humans to potential threats.
For the new study, researchers repeated the experiment with a musical accompaniment.
The volunteers, made up of 32 death metal fans and 48 people with no interest in the genre, viewed the image sets while listening to either Pharrell Williams’ chirpy pop hit Happy or a track called Eaten by Swedish death metal band Bloodbath.
The song, inspired by real-life German cannibal Armin Meiwes, includes the refrain: “Carve me up, slice me apart / Suck my guts and lick my heart / Chop me up, I like to be hurt / Drink my marrow and blood for dessert”.