"Music transmitted from generation to generation shapes autobiographical memories, preferences, and emotional responses, a phenomenon we call cascading 'reminiscence bumps,'" said psychological scientist and lead researcher Carol Lynne Krumhansl of Cornell University.

"These new findings point to the impact of music in childhood and likely reflect the prevalence of music in the home environment," said Krumhansl. The study, published in 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, said researchers.

To explore 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 to 2009.

The 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 among friends.

The data 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, researchers said.

But the more surprising finding, one which the researchers didn't expect to see, 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.

Participants seemed to demonstrate a particular affinity for the songs their parents were listening to as young adults.


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