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Is There Such Thing That Inherited Nostalgia?


Priceonomics; data via Krumhansl and Zupnick

We get our genes from our parents, but we also know there is much more into the story, we inherit also a bunch of other stuff (never heard of epigenetics?) but what about memories? No way! They are built in a brain during a lifetime but they can’t be passed to the next generation! According to the blog Priceonomics, there is a new study that demonstrates there is such thing, sort of, and I don’t buy it entirely!

In 2012, researchers from Cornell University and UC Santa Cruz studied the responses of 20-year-old college students to clips of Billboard top singles dating back to 1955. As predicted, the students showed nostalgia while listening to music that was popular when they were tweens, and ‘seemed increasingly attached to music from then-on’ and ‘personal memories were closely correlated to whether [music] made participants feel happy and energized’… and this is totally normal, as it has been demonstrated over and over that emotions are closely associated with the process of memorization.

But something strange happened, as ‘subjects also displayed a similar attachment – including a feeling of nostalgia — to music that was popular in the early 1980s, long before they were born.’ What? How can you be nostalgic for something you haven’t lived through, you haven’t experienced?

‘According to previous research, this would be the time when [the subject’s] parents’ preferences were established,’ write the researchers. But this is totally explainable, parents had nostalgia for this music, so they probably listened to this music when their kids were little, and this contributed to their children’s attachment to this same music.

But there is another bump in the musical attachment and this time it is for music even older, music that was popular in the 60’s, and could be the product of grandparents’ influence. Thus, researchers concluded that tunes were passed not only from parents but also from grandparents.

Yes, except that the 60’s were an exceptional decade for music, honestly who hasn’t been influenced by the music of the 60’s? Who hasn’t fallen in love with the decade? The Beatles and the Stones stayed iconic bands whoever has come after them. I doubt an older generation is nostalgic for the music of their grandparents, I don’t even what kind of music my grandparents were listening to! Just because music was very limited at this time. Now, what about the next generations, will they be nostalgic of the music of the 90s (it may have already happened with all these Nirvana shirts worn by 12-year-old, but this is an exception). What is the music of the 00’s and the next decades? I can’t name an iconic band like the few ones that define the 60’s! But will these kids be nostalgic of the music that their parents and grandparents were listening in the 90’s or ‘00’s? There is so much out there right now and kids have such a shrinking attention span these days that they will probably listen to a lot of things minus the nostalgia. The 60’s produced little in comparison with today but they produced the exceptional, the last decades have produced abundance with very few exceptional bands. As a matter of fact, the researchers also noted it themselves ‘Thus, some combination of the quality of the music, transmission through two generations, and its increased availability might account for the effect. Or it could be just that the quality of the music was higher, in which case it will show up in future studies.’

Without any study, I bet most people, whatever their age have some kind of nostalgia for the music of the 60’s , because of its unique quality, but I am not sure ot can be repeated, as I don’t know if the same kind of nostalgia will be involved for the Foo Fighters, Green Day or Linkin Park, the Red Hot Chili Peppers or even Muse…

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