There's A Reason Why You Still Love The Music From Your Teen Years

Brilliance | Dec. 16, 2017

Why is it that the music we hear in our teen years holds such an important place in our hearts? The nostalgia associated with tunes from the 1990s (for the Curiosity editorial team, anyway) seems to strengthen as time goes on. This explains why Alanis Morissette's "You Oughta Know" sounds like a work of genius, but today's pop songs sound like repetitive fluff. Are songs from our past really superior, or do we hold a musical bias based on our memories?

It's probably the latter. Psychologists and neuroscientists have recently determined that musical nostalgia isn't just a cultural phenomenon—it's wired in our brains. Even when your tastes progress past the Backstreet Boys, your brain is stuck on the formative years of your adolescence. In the era between your pre-teen years and early 20s, your brain is developing like never before, so it makes sense that the music you love during that time might be programmed in with the rest of your formative experiences. Solidifying these new neural landmarks is a rush of puberty hormones, which infuse everything with heightened emotion. That extra emotion gives your brain the signal that the memories are extra important.

This time period is also one associated with a greater quantity of memories overall, thanks to a phenomenon called the "reminiscence bump." Psychologists chalk up these memories to a few things, including the fact that these years are when you form your personal identity, and because it's a period of so many firsts. But the music you discovered with your friends isn't the only kind that's important. Studies (like one co-authored by Curiosity employee Justin Zupnick) show that young adults are also influenced by their parents' favorite music. So if you're a huge Stevie Nicks fan, you might want to thank your parents for blasting Fleetwood Mac on car rides (thanks, Dad). To learn more about your music taste and how your personality developed, watch the following videos.

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