Metal concerts are interesting in that they draw a diverse yet easily classifiable crowd. Some metal fan signatures include dark clothing and awkward posture. Hair styles vary from minimal to insane. These concerts are also one of the few places on Earth where you will find the white-high-socks-and-jorts combo.
In general though, metal fans can also be relatively normal-looking people. If this is the case, you can still identify subjects by their propensity to pump the “devils horns”. Sometimes, after a song, instead of cheering and clapping, the audience just cheer and put their devil-horned fists in the air. This results in a noticeable drop in the signal power for the resultant applause (see chart below). I feel bad when I see bands milking applause from the audience only to be met with more enthusiastic fist pumping.
As another characteristic maneuver of a rock metal show goer, head banging–or, as I like to call it, violent nodding–supports an interesting theory on the origins of some rockers’ seemingly pathological obsession with the genre and their stage heroes. (Stay with me here.) In their 1980 study “The Effects of Overt Head Movements on Persuasion”, Gary L. Wells and Richard E. Petty analyze an experiment which demonstrates cognitive biases that result from repeated head movements. To explain more clearly, the experiment required participants (who were university students) to listen to a conversation that supported raising the school tuition. 1/3 of the students were made to nod their heads up and down while listening, another third shook their heads left to right, and the last third kept their heads still. After listening, they were asked what they thought an appropriate tuition rate was. And the result?
The control group–the ones who kept their heads still–decided on average to reduce tuition slightly, from $587 to $582 per year. The group who shook their heads side to side decided on average to reduce tuition much more, to $467. And the group told to nod their heads decided on average to raise tuition to $646. The nodding of the last group created a bias correlating with the attitude of the conversation they listened to.
My theory then, is that the aggressive head-nodding of rock metal enthusiasts results in a stronger preferential bias towards their genre of music. This is not to say that other genres of music don’t have their crazy fans as well. But the prevalence of both band obsession and head-banging in the genre of rock metal leads me to believe that this correlation has a dual-causal relationship–listening to rock metal induces head-banging and head-banging induces listening to more rock music.