Evolutionary Psychological Science

, Volume 4, Issue 3, pp 294–300 | Cite as

Ecology of Musical Preference: the Relationship Between Pathogen Prevalence and the Number and Intensity of Metal Bands

  • Farid PazhoohiEmail author
  • Karlos Luna
Research Article


Ecological conditions and pathogen stress shape human cognition and behavior and can explain cultural and behavioral patterns cross-culturally. It has been previously shown that human values and preferences are also phenotypically plastic in response to parasitic stress across regions, and that parasite prevalence is associated with the out-group prejudice and nonconformity tolerance. Human preference for music is also variable across the world, and no previous study has considered this variability in the light of behavioral ecology. Research has shown that in the regions in which the parasite stress is higher, there is higher aversion against out-groups, and unusual and deviant behaviors. In the current study we hypothesized that extreme forms of music such as heavy metal, which is associated with antisocial behavior, irreligiosity, and deviation from the norm is less prevalent in the regions with higher prevalence of pathogenic stress. We tested our hypothesis using publicly available data measuring number and intensity of metal bands and parasite prevalence while controlling for importance of religion, human development index, and population size across European countries. Results showed that parasite stress negatively predicts the number of heavy metal bands. However, no relationship was found between the intensity of the music and parasite stress. We discussed our results in terms of association of parasite stress with tolerance to out-group members (metal community and culture) and with the openness to new musical endeavors. Overall, this study extends the role of the ecological and biological variation (parasite stress) in shaping human cognition to musical preference and prevalence.


Musical preference Heavy metal music Parasite stress Human behavioral ecology 



The authors would like to kindly thank Corey Fincher for permission of using parasite data.


This study was conducted at the Psychology Research Centre (PSI/01662), University of Minho, and supported by the Portuguese Foundation for Science and Technology and the Portuguese Ministry of Science, Technology and Higher Education through national funds and co-financed by FEDER through COMPETE2020 under the PT2020 Partnership Agreement (POCI-01-0145-FEDER-007653). FP receives funding from FCT Portugal through grant SFRH/BD/114366/2016.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Competing Interests

The authors declare no competing interests.

Supplementary material

40806_2018_139_MOESM1_ESM.xls (31 kb)
ESM 1 (XLS 31 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of PsychologyUniversity of MinhoBragaPortugal
  2. 2.Psychology Research Centre, School of PsychologyUniversity of MinhoBragaPortugal

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