"Carve me up, slice me apart/Suck my guts and lick my heart." So sings the death metal band Bloodbath in "Eaten"—a tribute to cannibalism, from the victim's point of view—but do such lyrics desensitize death metal fans to violence? Not according to a new Australian study that measured how people react to violent imagery while listening to different kinds of music, the BBC reports. Researchers at Macquarie University in Sydney had 32 death metal fans and 48 non-fans listen to "Eaten" at one time and Pharrell Williams' "Happy" at another while experiencing so-called binocular rivalry. That means each participant had an image simultaneously shown to each eye, one violent, one neutral.
People's brains usually pick up the violent image more: "The brain will try to take it in—presumably there's a biological reason for that, because it's a threat," says study co-author William Forde Thompson. But death metal fans showed the same bias toward processing the violent image while listening to "Eaten" or "Happy." Non-fans, however, processed the violent image more during "Eaten" and less during "Happy." Conclusion? "Listeners who extract a positive experience from violent or aggressively themed music" are no more drawn to violent imagery because of the music, per the study in Royal Society Open Science. As for everyone else, well, violence can become a little more appealing. (Read more music stories.)