Following a New York Times report titled The Songs That Bind, in which the writer noticed that the popularity of certain songs correlated to the age groups who first heard it when they were teenagers — VICE’s music channel Noisey, further delves into this hypothesis by speaking to an expert, Dr. Stephanie Burnett Heyes, a psychology lecturer and British Academy postdoctoral research fellow at the University of Birmingham, to find out more.

…on why are adults primarily obsessed with music from their teen years.

Dr. H: “Adolescence is a ‘social sensitive’ period, which means it’s a period of life when you’re receptive to other people and ideas – more receptive than later on – so those interactions and ideas tend to stick. In terms of scientific evidence for this, it’s really difficult to collect, but it’s an idea that’s been proposed in the last couple of years in the field of psychology. It’s something we’re still trying to investigate.

Another reason has to do with the brain and what’s called ‘functional brain activity’ – and these ideas aren’t mutually exclusive to the social ones. When adolescents are processing stimulating reward activities – which can be anything from money to sugar to someone you respect liking you back – they seem to be more responsive than older and younger people, and that seems to respond to their activity.”

…on the idea of the deeper we love something, the more likely it is to stick with us later.

Dr. H: “It doesn’t necessarily follow, but it could be a combination of these forces.”

…on the tastes assigned to male at birth formed later than those assigned to female at birth.

Dr. H: “Anything that is a year later for boys than for girls points straight away to puberty. We know that puberty hormones don’t just affect our bodies and reproductive organs – they affect our brains. It affects how you perceive and interact with people. That seems the obvious first hypothesis. I’d be interested to see whether those who go through puberty later like music from when they were 16 rather than 14.”

…on the additional spike in our early twenties when it comes to music taste.

Dr. H: “I would like to see whether this spike varies in terms of whether they went to university, when they left home, their socio-economic status etc. Because it could be something about going to a new place and meeting new people and being surrounded by new ideas. But it could also be another brain mechanism. It would need more data.”

…on our tastes being formed in other ways in our teen years such as films and fashion sense.

Dr. H: “Music seems like a paradigmatic one, doesn’t it? The others aren’t as clear cut. Fashion’s quite expensive for a teenager, for example, so there are other things going on. Another obvious thing to explore, though, would be spiritual beliefs and attitudes. Ideological preferences might be formed in your teenage years because it’s a time when you might be more open to spiritual and religious ideas, that sort of thing.”

For additional details, be sure to read the full story on Noisey.

In other music news, Twitter is losing it over Fergie singing the national anthem at NBA All-Star Weekend.

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Words by Renz Ofiaza
Staff Writer

scribbling by day, architect by night