Medical Mysteries of Music

You will never forget the music you loved as a 14-year-old. Here’s why.

There’s a special period in our lives during which we come of age musically. From about the time we enter high school to when we finally have to face the real world–roughly a ten-year period between 13 and 23 (+/- a year or two), we’re deeper into music than at any other time in our lives.

We use music to discover who we are and we use music to project our identity to the rest of the world. At no other time will we spend more time with music and going to gigs. This is why every generation believes the music of its youth is the greatest music of all time. These behaviors are of great interest to researchers.

A team at Durham University pulled together 470 people aged between 18 and 82. They were asked to rate 111 songs that charted between 1950 and 2015. Everyone was then asked if they knew the songs and if any of them brought back any memories.

The researchers found something they called reminiscence bump, a period in the subjects’ lives where music triggered strong feelings of nostalgia and other strong emotions and memories. This bump reached a peak with songs the subjects loved when they were 14-years-old. Those memories were more accurate and vivid. I quote:

“This suggests that memories that are central to one’s sense of identity are often inextricably associated with music. This may be related… to the common tradition of coupling music with significant life events and the increased consumption and value placed on music during key periods of identity formation in adolescence.”

In other words, you will never escape the music of your 14-year-old self. And that’s completely natural. Read more here.

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 40+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

Alan Cross has 38508 posts and counting. See all posts by Alan Cross

2 thoughts on “You will never forget the music you loved as a 14-year-old. Here’s why.

  • Well I am using my n of 1 study to say this is not always the case. 1990 was my 14th year. I just looked up songs from 1990 and there is nothing that triggers anything for me. In fact, in 1990 I was coming out of a big Rolling Stones phase. I would eventually get into Nirvana/Alice in Chains/Pearl Jam etc but not until 1995 after an early 90s detour into rap/hip hop. Then in the early 2000s bands like Interpol made me backtrack to bands like Joy Division, New Order, The Cure, Depeche Mode etc. And I have been mostly there as my go to ever since. I listen to all types of music, but music I settled on was music I didn’t actually hear the first pass through. It was mostly re-exploring when I hit about 30. Also, I specifically search out new music and listen to it until there is a connection so I am not stuck on old stuff and not progressing. I can name plenty of music within the past 10 years that has just as big or as big of an impact as music when I was younger.

  • can you do a show on teenage head please?


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