Listener expertise enhances intelligibility of vocalisations in Death Metal music

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    Death Metal music with violent themes is characterised by vocalisations with unnaturally low fundamental frequencies and high levels of distortion and roughness. These attributes decrease the signal to noise ratio, rendering linguistic content difficult to understand and leaving the impression of growling, screaming, or other non-linguistic vocalisations associated with aggression and fear. Here, we compared the ability of fans and non-fans of Death Metal to accurately perceive sung words extracted from Death Metal music. We also examined whether music training confers an additional benefit to intelligibility. In a 2×2 between-subjects factorial design (fans/non-fans, musicians/non-musicians), four groups of participants (n=16 per group) were presented with 24 sung words (one per trial), extracted from the popular American Death Metal band Cannibal Corpse. On each trial, participants completed a four-alternative forced-choice word recognition task. Intelligibility (word recognition accuracy) was above chance for all groups and was significantly enhanced for fans (65.88%) relative to non-fans (51.04%). In the fan group, intelligibility between musicians and non-musicians was statistically similar. In the non-fan group, intelligibility was significantly greater for musicians relative to non-musicians. Results are discussed in the context of perceptual learning and the benefits of expertise for decoding linguistic information in sub-optimum acoustic conditions.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)527-539
    Number of pages13
    JournalMusic Perception
    Issue number5
    Publication statusPublished - Jun 2018

    Bibliographical note

    Published as Olsen, K. N., Thompson, W. F., & Giblin, I. (2018). "Listener Expertise Enhances Intelligibility of Vocalizations" in Music Perception: An Interdisciplinary Journal, Vol. 35 No. 5, June 2018; (pp. 527-539) DOI: © 2018 by the Regents of the University of California. Copying and permissions notice: Authorization to copy this content beyond fair use (as specified in Sections 107 and 108 of the U. S. Copyright Law) for internal or personal use, or the internal or personal use of specific clients, is granted by the Regents of the University of California for libraries and other users, provided that they are registered with and pay the specified fee via Rightslink® on [Caliber (] or directly with the Copyright Clearance Center,


    • auditory perception
    • emotion
    • expertise
    • lyrics
    • perceptual learning


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