Canadian Scientist Says Heavy Metal is Good for Scientific Thinking

Props to Rodney Schmaltz (yes, that’s his name, but he’s real), who works in the Department of Psychology at MacEwan University in Edmonton, who has just published a scholarly article in Frontiers of Psychology entitled “Bang Your Head: Using Heavy Metal to Promote Scientific Thinking in the Classroom.” In a nutshell, he says that metal “can help students think like scientists” by using certain case studies in law, politics and sociology involving metal to encourage critical thinking.

While heavy metal music may not be something typically covered in an introductory psychology textbook, there are many useful resources from this area of popular culture that can help promote scientific thinking in the classroom. From hidden messages in Judas Priest’s music to Slayer being accused of inciting murder, heavy metal music has a long history of unique instances that are directly related to psychology. By incorporating examples from the world of heavy metal, educators can discuss scientific thinking in a way that is engaging and memorable for students.

Helping students think like scientists—that is to apply the rigorous principles of hypothesis testing outside of the classroom—is a challenge (Willingham, 2008). Robert Cialdini proposed that creating mystery in the classroom is an effective means to engage students and promote learning (Cialdini, 2005). Specifically, Cialadini argued that instructors should frame a lecture in the same way a mystery writer frames a novel, by posing a puzzle and providing the information for the reader—or in this case, the student—to solve it. The question, or mystery, can be broadly stated as, “Can music lead people to commit harmful acts?”

Using the Cialadini approach of creating mystery, educators can frame a discussion around music as a way to introduce a variety of topics related to scientific thinking, such as logical fallacies, issues in research methodology, and biases in thinking. For example, the belief that there is a causal link between music and harm could be discussed in terms of the argumentum ad antiquitatem fallacy, also known as the appeal to traditional (e.g., Vaughn and Schick, 1999). For over two thousand years, there has been public concern about the impact of certain types of music on behavior. Aristotle stated that “…if over a long time (a person) habitually listens to music that rouses ignoble passions, his whole character will be shaped to an ignoble form” (Grout, 1988). As music has historically been associated with causing harm, people may fall prey to the argumentum ad antiquitatem fallacy and accept the claim of causality between music and harm, without examining any empirical evidence.

You can read the full article here. The PMRC comes off badly, too.

Yeah! SCIENCE, BITCH! (Via Tom and Blabbermouth)

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 30+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

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