Value Expressive Attitudes and Metalheads

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The following report was written as part of my graduate studies in General Psychology. It has not been published anywhere but this site. Please contact me before reusing or reporting this paper.

Course: Social Psychology

Assignment: One-page thought paper on a chapter subject applied to the topic of my choice.

Value Expressive Attitudes and Metalheads

This paper discusses the social psychological concept of value expressive attitudes that represent identity and belonging in out-groups, in particular the heavy metal music subculture of the 1980s. It discusses how this group and their attitudes served individuals in the short-term and resolved in the long run.

Fiske (2014) explains that the core social motives of understanding and belonging underlie attitudes. In understanding, attitudes result from “object appraisal” functions wherein people classify things and decide whether to “approach or avoid” them (Fiske, 2014, p. 230). In belonging, attitudes have “value-expressive” functions in that people align themselves with certain groups that share social standards, both as a means of forming identity and belonging (Fiske, 2014, p. 232). As Howe et al. (2015) notes, these can include “dark” and “not mainstream” groups because “identity is located within the person but also without, in the cultures with which they identify (p. 603).

In an article entitled “Three Decades Later: The Life Experiences and Mid-Life Functioning of 1980s Heavy Metal Groupies, Musicians, and Fans,” Howe et al. (2015) examined middle-aged adults who, as youths, experienced “sex, drugs, and rock-n-roll” lifestyles. The researchers pointed out that these ‘80s youths were, as was normal, in Erik Erikson’s identity crisis stage and trying to determine who they were, but that they were also in a culture of “rapid social change” that made identity formation more challenging (Howe et al., 2015, p. 603). They theorized, in line with past research, that these groups aided in non-judgmental identity development. The so-called metalheads in the study were aware of their reputation and bonded over their dislike of mainstream pop culture; the music subculture served as a value expressive attitude (side note: ironically, this out-group culture became mainstream 25 years later). The study’s findings suggested that although there are risk factors involved in these types of subcultures, they may also “…serve a protective function as a source of kinship and connection for youth seeking to solidify their identity development” (Howe et al., 2015, p. 623). The study further found, as was highly reported in rock music media, that the identity and group belonging aspect had a positive side in that as middle-aged adults, these ‘80s metalheads “…were significantly happier in their youth and better adjusted currently than either middle-aged or current college-age youth comparison groups” (Howe, et. al., 2015, p. 602).

Fiske (2014) points out that object-appraisal functions and value-appraisal functions have differing practical applications. In the case of metalheads, the object appraisal of the music scene usually involved an exciting stereotype of a dangerous and degenerate lifestyle that should probably be avoided. However, this likely served as a value-expressive function to ‘80s adolescents who felt a kinship in sowing their wild oats in what has become known as the decade of decadence. As Howe et al. (2015) states: [t]hese metalheads were well aware of the larger culture’s stereotypes and misgivings about their chosen style culture yet they reflected on their group membership with pride and developed skills to cope with their angst about the world at large, the mainstream culture which they abhorred” (p. 621).

The study used several measures, including the International Personality Item Pool (IPIP) Big Five. I assume they did not have to use a “bogus pipeline” to determine whether subjects answered truthfully about their drug, alcohol, and sexual habits. As Howe et al. (2105) noted, the subjects were found to have no regrets over their risky sensation-seeking actions and in fact “…look back fondly on the wild times they lived” (p. 623). The researchers also found that most middle-age metalheads still listen to the music and remain in the subculture, albeit with different adult, as opposed to adolescent, identity and value-expressive attitudes.


Fiske, S.T. (2014). Social Beings: Core Motives in Social Psychology. Hoboken, New Jersey: John Wiley & Sons. Inc.

Howe, Tasha R., Aberson, Christopher L., Friedman, Howard S., Murphy, Sarah E., Alcazar, Esperanza, Vazquez, Edwin J., and Becker, Rebekah (2015). Three Decades Later: The Life Experiences and Mid-Life Functioning of 1980s Heavy Metal Groupies, Musicians, and Fans, Self and Identity, 14:5, 602-626, DOI: 10.1080/15298868.2015.1036918

International Personality Item Pool: A Scientific Collaboratory for the Development of Advanced Measures of Personality Traits and Other Individual Differences ( Internet Web Site.

words metal

Copyright 2016. Rocksandy. All rights reserved. 


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