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The thinking person’s music: heavy metal and the need for cognition

Faculty Advisor




genre, personality, popular music, stereotypes, cognition

Abstract (summary)

Past research indicates that music preference is correlated with the need for cognition (NFC). Specifically, heavy metal fans have been found to score lower on NFC than fans of other genres. In this study, a large sample of music fans completed measures of NFC well as the Short Dark Triad scale, which measures Machiavellianism, Narcissism, and Psychopathy. Contrary to previous findings, fans of heavy metal scored significantly higher on NFC than fans of other genres. Consistent with previous research, fans of “problem music” (i.e., heavy metal and rap) scored higher on the Dark Triad. As the original work on NFC and music preference was conducted over 30 years ago, we speculate that a change in the style of heavy metal may correlate with a change in the need for cognition.

Publication Information

Schmaltz, R., Watson, D., & Johnson, A. (2021). The thinking person’s music: Heavy metal and the need for cognition. Psychology of Music, 49(5), 1372–1380.


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