an uncanny way of bringing us back to a specific point in time, and each
generation seems to have its own opinions about which tunes will live on as
classics. New research suggests that young adults of today are fond of and have an
emotional connection to the music that was popular during their parents'
transmitted from generation to generation shapes autobiographical memories,
preferences, and emotional responses, a phenomenon we call cascading
'reminiscence bumps'," explains psychological scientist and lead
researcher Carol Lynne Krumhansl of Cornell University. "These new
findings point to the impact of music during childhood and likely reflect the
prevalence of music in the home environment."
published in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for
Psychological Science, reveals that while songs that were popular in our early
20s seem to have the greatest lasting emotional impact, music that was popular
during our parents' younger days also evokes vivid memories.
the connection between autobiographical memories and musical memories,
Krumhansl and Justin Zupnick of the University of California, Santa Cruz asked
62 college-age participants listen to two top Billboard hits per year from 1955
researchers wanted to see which periods of music were most memorable for the
participants, which songs conjured up the strongest feelings, and which ones
made the participants happy, sad, energised, or nostalgic. In addition,
participants were asked whether they remembered listening to the song by
themselves, with their parents, or amongst friends.
revealed that participants' personal memories associated with songs increased
steadily as they got older, from birth until the present day. This finding
makes sense – we recall more recent songs better, ascribe memories to them more
easily, and feel a stronger emotional connection with them.
Affinity for parents' songs
more surprising finding — one which the researchers didn't expect — was
a drastic bump in memories, recognition, perceived quality, liking, and
emotional connection with the music that was popular in the early 1980s, when
the participants' parents were about 20-25 years old. That is, participants
seemed to demonstrate a particular affinity for the songs their parents were
listening to as young adults.
research has shown that the music we encounter during late adolescence and
early adulthood has the greatest impact on our lives. But these findings
suggest that the music played throughout childhood can also leave a lasting
was another, albeit smaller, 'reminiscence bump' for the music of the 1960s –
more than two decades before the participants were born. Krumhansl and Zupnick
speculate that reminiscence for this music could have been transmitted from the
participants' grandparents, who would have been in their 20s or 30s in the
possibility — one that might be favoured by those of the Baby Boomer generation
— is that the music of the 1960s is truly of higher quality.
researchers are launching a web-based survey to explore these questions
further. The survey will include a century of top hits and Krumhansl and
Zupnick hope that listeners of all ages, especially older adults, will
will be fascinating to see if we can trace intergenerational influences back
through more generations, better understand the 'sixties' bump,' and look for
effects of the vast changes in music technology that have occurred over the
last century," says Krumhansl.