By Jennifer Copley (Last Updated 12 May 2011)
Are Those Who Listen to Heavy Metal More Likely to Commit Suicide?
Although the suicide rate is higher than average among heavy metal fans, evidence suggests that many people who are already depressed are drawn to this genre (Becknell et al., 2008). It’s unlikely that listening to heavy metal music will trigger depression in happy people, and fans who are unhappy or under stress may use it therapeutically; studies have shown that heavy metal music lovers shift to a more positive mood while listening to their preferred music (University of Warwick, 22 March 2007; Wooten, 1992).
Oddly enough, the rate of suicide is higher among fans of older country music as well (Stack & Gundlach, 1992).
Does Listening to Rap Music and Heavy Metal Trigger Problem Behaviours?
Although there are higher rates of arrest, drug and alcohol abuse, and poor school performance among rap and metal fans, these problems often begin before young fans gravitate to these musical genres. In other words, at-risk youth may be drawn to rap and metal, but the music probably isn’t causing their problems (Baker & Bor, 2008; Tatum, 1999; Took and Weiss, 1994).
It’s also worth noting that rap and metal are diverse genres and each includes positive subgenres. For example, Miranda & Claes (2004) found higher rates of delinquency among gangsta rap fans, but not fans of hip hop. It’s also important to note that there are plenty of gifted students and good citizens who are rap and metal fans. The University of Warwick (2007) conducted a large study of gifted and talented heavy metal fans, finding that these excellent students use heavy metal music to dispel stress and enhance their moods.
Do Rap and Heavy Metal Music Promote Misogyny?
Research suggests that listening to metal or rap can exacerbate pre-existing negative attitudes about women, but is unlikely to trigger misogyny in those who weren’t already somewhat misogynistic (Cobb & Boettcher III, 2007; Lawrence & Joiner, 1991).
Does Listening to Classical Music Make You Smarter?
Although a few studies have found short-term performance benefits, there is little evidence that simply listening to classical music such as Mozart boosts brain power in the long run (Pietschnig et al. 2009), but learning and playing music appears to improve memory and other aspects of cognitive functioning (Hanna-Pladdy & MacKay, 2011; Rauscher et al., 1997; Yim-Chi Ho et al., 2003).
What Is Musical Intelligence?
Musical intelligence is one of the eight intelligences proposed by Howard Gardner in his Multiple Intelligences model (the others are linguistic, logical-mathematical, visual-spatial, bodily-kinesthetic, interpersonal, intrapersonal, and naturalistic). Those with musical intelligence are particularly sensitive to aspects of music such as rhythm, tone, and pitch, and typically display a talent for singing, playing musical instruments, or composing music. They may also learn more easily when information is presented in a music-related form or context (Gardner, 1983).
Does Music Have an Effect on Plants?
Many people believe that playing music for plants will promote healthy growth. Robertson (n.d.) describes the research of Dorothy Retallack who took this idea a step further, subjecting plants to various types of music and observing their health and growth. In one experiment, she set up two chambers, with plants “listening” to a local rock’n’roll station in one and soothing music in the other. The plants in the soothing music chamber grew well and soon began to bend toward the speakers, whereas the rock’n’roll plants were gangly and drooping or stunted with small leaves. By day sixteen, many of the rock’n’roll plants were dying, whereas the plants in the soothing music condition were growing beautifully.
In a second experiment, Retallack played a tape of music by Led Zeppelin, Jimi Hendrix, and Vanilla Fudge, and the plants grew away from the speakers as though they were trying to escape. In another experiment, three groups of plants were placed in separate chambers with one group “hearing” Bach, another North Indian classical sitar and tabla music, and a third no music at all to act as a control group. The plants appeared to “like” the North Indian classical music the most, but seemed to “enjoy” the Bach music as well. Subsequent experiments found that plants did not react to country music, “liked” jazz, “disliked” discordant modern classical music, and continued to “hate” rock music.
Although Retallack’s experiments are interesting, it should be noted that her methods have been fiercely criticized by Dr. Chalker-Scott (n.d.) on a variety of grounds, ranging from Retallack’s tendency to anthropomorphize (feelings and preferences are ascribed to the plants) to the lack of controls (humidity, water, light, etc.) in her experimental design.
What Is Music Therapy?
Music therapy encompasses a variety of techniques, including listening to vibrational music (vibroacoustic) or metered music with a therapeutic tempo (entrainment) or working directly with music therapists to create music or conduct various therapeutic activities to music.
Music therapy has been used successfully to aid with stroke rehabilitation, increase recall and reduce agitation in those with Alzheimer’s disease, remedy social deficits related to autistic spectrum disorders, decrease emotional and physical pain, and reduce stress and anxiety (see Music Reduces Physical Pain, Anxiety, and Depression; Promotes Healing for more information on this).
What Does Music Preference Indicate About Personality?
Studies have found that those with certain personality traits are more likely to be fans of particular musical genres. For a list of traits that have been associated with metalheads, rap music fans, classical music afficianados, jazz lovers, and more, see Music and Personality.
For a full list of music articles, visit the Music Psychology page.
- Becknell, M.E.; Firmin, M.W.; Hwang, C.; Fleetwood, D.M.; Tate, K.L.; & Schwab, G.D. (2008). “Effects of Listening to Heavy Metal Music on College Women: A Pilot Study.” College Student Journal, 42(1), 24-35.
- Chalker-Scott, L. (n.d.). “The Myth of Absolute Science: ‘If It’s Published, It Must Be True’.” Washington State University, Puyallup.WSU.edu
- Cobb, M.D., & Boettcher, III, W.A. (2007). “Ambivalent Sexism and Misogynistic Rap Music: Does Exposure to Eminem Increase Sexism?” Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 37(12), 3,025-3,042.
- Gardner, H. (1983) Frames of Mind: The Theory of Multiple Intelligences. New York, NY: Basic Books.
- Hanna-Pladdy, B., & MacKay, A. (2011). “The Relation Between Instrumental Music Activity and Cognitive Aging.” Neuropsychology, 25(3), 378-386.
- Lawrence, J.S., & Joyner, D.J. (1991). “The Effects of Sexually Violent Rock Music on Males’ Acceptance of Violence Against Women.” Psychology of Women Quarterly, 15(1), 49-63.
- Miranda, D., & Claes, M. (2004). “Rap Music Genres and Deviant Behaviours in French-Canadian Adolescents.” Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 33, 113-122.
- Rauscher, F.H.; Shaw, G.L.; Levine, L.J.; Wright, E.L.; Dennis, W.R.; & Newcomb, R.L. (1997). “Music Training Causes Long-Term Enhancement of Preschool Children’s Spatial-Temporal Reasoning.” Neurological Research, 19, 2-8.
- Roberson, D. (n.d.). “About Positive Music: The Plant Experiments.” The DoveSong Foundation, Dovesong.org.
- Stack, S., & Gundlach, J. (1992). “The Effect of Country Music on Suicide.” Social Forces, 71(1), 211-218.
- Tatum, B.L. (1999). “The Link Between Rap Music and Youth Crime and Violence: A Review of the Literature and Issues [HTML Version].” Justice Professional, 11(3).
- Took, K.J., & Weiss, D.S. (1994). “The Relationship Between Heavy Metal and Rap Music and Adolescent Turmoil: Real or Artifact?” Adolescence, 29, 613-623.
- University of Warwick. (22 March 2007). “Gifted Students Beat the Blues with Heavy Metal.” ScienceDaily.com.
- Wooten, M.A. (1992). “The Effects of Heavy Metal Music on Affect Shifts of Adolescents in an Inpatient Psychiatric Setting.” Music Therapy Perspectives, 10, 93-98.
- Yim-Chi Ho, M.P.; Cheung, M.; & Chan, A.S. (2003). “Music Training Improves Verbal but Not Visual Memory: Cross-Sectional and Longitudinal Explorations in Children.” Neuropsychology, 17(3): 439-450.