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Heavy music helps fans deal with fear of death, study suggests

Psychologists exploring terror management theory say heavy music helps fans deal with their own inevitable death - and therefore does “cultural good”

Listening to heavy music helps fans deal with the natural human fear of death, a study has suggested – and as a result the genre can be seen as doing “cultural good.”

Psychologists Julia Kneer and DIana Rieger say that awareness of one’s inevitable death, known as “mortality salience,” is countered by a boost of self-esteem provided by the music.

Entitled The Memory Remains after the Metallica track from their 1997 album Reload, the report has been published by the American Psychological Association.

Researchers spoke to 30 people in the Netherlands and Germany after they’d been split into two groups. One group listened to Slayer track Angel Of Death while the other heard an audiobook.

Kneer and Rieger say: “Heavy metal music is often associated with death and dying by non-fans, whereas members of this subculture report that listening is their escape from depression, and even helpful against death-related thoughts.

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“According to terror management theory, self-esteem and cultural worldview serve as a symbolic, two-component buffer system working against the fear of death.

“Two studies investigated whether heavy metal music is able to serve as a cultural worldview buffer against existential anguish by using implicit measurements.”

They add: “In Study 1, we found that fans had no further need to increase their cultural worldview – but only if they listened to metal after the induction of mortality salience.

“Study 2 revealed that metal music made further support of self-esteem unnecessary for fans, whereas non-fans still had the need to increase their self-esteem.”

The scientists conclude: “Metal music can be seen as cultural good for fans and thereby can form part of their social identity.”

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