Why You’re Never Getting Over Your Shitty High School Playlists

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There are a lot of reasons to look back at your high school self and cringe. Whether you were decked out in full black or wearing double popped collars, you probably regret the things you used to do, and have since moved on from all of that. The one thing you probably haven’t moved on from? The music you listened to in high school. Those are the songs that still give you chills. The ones that immediately take you back when hear them. The songs that make you want to drive down the road with the windows down.  There’s a reason for that.

photo via harderthanitis.tumblr.com

photo via harderthanitis.tumblr.com

While gluttonously watching 5 hours of Criminal Minds one, I saw an episode where the profiling team used someone’s musical preferences to track a killer. At one point, Dr. Spencer Reid explains that “14 is when we start to make our own musical choices. Our cognitive development evolves at that age and we start to form our own cultural identity… And those musical experiences imprint on us. Our hormonal surges as teenagers may make the choices seem more personal and passionate. And later on in life we might experiment with other musical selections, but no music ever impacts us as much as that which we listen to at age 14.”



Television doesn’t always use exact science in shows, so I wasn’t entirely sure if this explanation was accurate or not, but after consulting with science, it does appear to be true.

Daniel J. Levitin, a professor of psychology and the director of the Laboratory for Music Perception, Cognition and Expertise at McGill University, told the New York Times  pretty much the same thing that Criminal Minds said: “Fourteen is a sort of magic age for the development of musical tastes. Pubertal growth hormones make everything we’re experiencing, including music, seem very important. We’re just reaching a point in our cognitive development when we’re developing our own tastes. And musical tastes become a badge of identity.”

When kids are younger, they listen to similar music in order to keep in social circles. That means that you better like the pop icon of the time (see early 2000’s Britney Spears / Back Street Boys / N*Sync). Then we get older and begin to realize that things exist outside of what we know. That’s when we begin to explore and develop our own taste.

Apparently the trend is so consistent within teenagers that scientists can can predict have actually drawn up quantitative measures that can anticipate an individual’s musical preferences based on their personality traits.

What we are feeling and experiencing is directly linked to how we remember a song, and if we like it or not. This emotion can become so strong that your brain will alter itself back into that emotional state when it hears that song.



We develop our core musical taste around 14 or 15, and then add in a little more as we go on, but we have pretty much solidified our tastes by our mid-twenties since that’s when our personalities begin to go static. Once we really now who we are, we don’t need any new big musical changes in our lives.

Now you know why you’re parents never liked your music while growing up, which also means that we can all look forward to growing up and hating our child’s music as well!


Is This Your Song?

Your Magic Music Age

Criminal Minds Quote

  • Lexi Bollis

    Amazing article Sarah!!