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Study: Older music is more memorable even among young people


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In this study, NYU Clinical Assistant Professor of Psychology Pascal Wallisch and a team of undergraduates found that music from the ’60s to the ’90s is significantly more recognizable to younger generations, in a collective memory bank more stable than the years before or after the time period. Titled “Who remembers the Beatles? The collective memory for popular music,” the study surveyed approximately 650 millennials in the greater New York area over the course of a year. Undergraduates had the rare opportunity to co-author the paper. 

The team’s study found three distinct phases in the public’s memory of popular music from the ’60s to the ’90s: The first phase demonstrated a steep decrease in participants’ abilities to recognize music from this millennium, which declined annually from 2015 to 2000. The second phase was a “stable plateau from the 1960s to the 1990s,” with participants maintaining stable recognition of songs released during this 40-year period. The third phase highlighted a gradual drop in the ability to recognize songs from the ’40s and ’50s. 

One possible explanation for a surge in the younger generations’ knowledge of their parents’ music is the accessibility millennials have to songs from past decades. There are over 200 million worldwide users on Spotify alone, according to the company’s official Q3 2018 report. In fact, there was a significant relationship between the likelihood of recognizing a given song and its corresponding play count on Spotify.


i think there's a more interesting conversation to have here than a typical golden age of music type fallacy, or simply ranting on the over-produced/more disposable genres enjoying the limelight in recent years - for instance, having grown up hearing oldies/classic rock stations my mom would play, it's plainly obvious said playlists were stacked with most of the bands/cuts that stood the test of time, in terms of popular sales, influence or even just niche hits.


now, when said oldies stations play 80s cuts from my childhood (...) i'm hearing genesis,the police, MJ, prince and the like...not so much debbie gibson and the other artists that got played at the time but i don't even recall now. 


the last point in the quoted bit about access is huge too. 

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I think part of this has to do with the introduction of psychedelics to the U.S. popular culture and the 1996 Telecommunications Act. That is for a longer conversation though.

Edited by The Vagrant
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