Australasian Science: Australia's authority on science since 1938

Head-Banging Music Soothes the Soul

Extreme music like heavy metal can calm and inspire people experiencing anger. “We found the music regulated sadness and enhanced positive emotions,” said University of Queensland Honours student Leah Sharman.

“When experiencing anger, extreme music fans liked to listen to music that could match their anger. The music helped them explore the full gamut of emotion they felt, but also left them feeling more active and inspired. Results showed levels of hostility, irritability and stress decreased after music was introduced, and the most significant change reported was the level of inspiration they felt.”

The study, published in Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, involved 39 regular listeners of extreme music aged 18–34 years. Participants were monitored after a 16-minute “anger induction” in which interviewees described angering events in their life and were prompted about their relationships, employment and finances. Participants then spent 10 minutes listening to songs of their choice and 10 minutes of silence, and were monitored once more.

“A secondary aim for the study was to see what music angry participants would select from their playlist,” Sharman said. “It was interesting that half of the chosen songs contained themes of anger or aggression, with the remainder containing themes like – though not limited to – isolation and sadness.

“Yet participants reported they used music to enhance their happiness, immerse themselves in feelings of love and enhance their well-being. All of the responses indicated that extreme music listeners appear to use their choice of music for positive self-regulatory purposes.”