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Are we evil? Yes we are – but at least not crazy! How to test implicit associations of fans and non-fans with metal music

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Studies from social and media psychology on the impact of heavy metal music are mostly concerned with negative effects while the main reason to listen to any kind of music has not been taken into account: positive expectations. Besides, many methods used in these studies are critical concerning study design and/or used measurements because they focused either on problematic behaviour such as aggression, which is almost impossible to assess, and/or left out important variables such as individual taste in music. Instead of testing for aggressive behaviour it will be argued that a test for different cognitive concepts that are activated after listening to metal music will lead to more insight on the associations made based on individual taste in music. A laboratory study is presented that tested how aggression and emotional stability as negative concepts and fun and relaxation as positive concepts were activated by fans and non-fans after they had listened to metal music. To operationalize this, the lexical decision task was used. Findings showed that both groups link aggression to metal music while only non-fans associated emotional instability with metal. For positive associations it was found that fans link metal to relaxation such as stress reduction but not to mere fun. Besides the discussion of these differences based on fan status, the benefit of the application of the lexical decision task as a specific approach to test for activated cognitions is addressed.
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Keywords: aggression; cognitive associations; emotional stability; fan status; fun; lexical decision task; relaxation

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Erasmus University Rotterdam

Publication date: March 1, 2016

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  • Metal Music Studies is the journal of the International Society for Metal Music Studies.

    The aims of the journal are:
    • To provide an intellectual hub for the International Society of Metal Music Studies and a vehicle to promote the development of metal music studies;
    • To be the focus for research and theory in metal music studies – a multidisciplinary (and interdisciplinary) subject field that engages with a range of parent disciplines, including (but not limited to) sociology, musicology, humanities, cultural studies, geography, philosophy, psychology, history, natural sciences;
    • To publish high-quality, world-class research, theory and shorter articles that cross over from the industry and the scene;
    • To be a world leader in interdisciplinary studies and be a unique resource for metal music studies.
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