The Music We Listen to Between the Ages of 10 and 30 Defines us for the Rest of Our Lives, Finds New Study

Researchers analyzed the music choices of guests on BBC Radio 4’s Desert Island.
Loukia Papadopoulos

Researchers at the University of Westminster and City University of London analyzed the music choices of guests on BBC Radio 4’s Desert Island Discs program and found some pretty interesting results. In short, they discovered that the music people listen to between the ages of 10 and 30 defined them for the rest of their lives.


They called this period a ‘self-defining period’ and said it connected individuals to the people, places, and times that are deterministic of their identity. 

In BBC Radio 4’s Desert Island Discs program, guests are invited to imagine that they are being cast away to a desert island and are asked to choose eight records to take with them. The researchers reviewed the responses of 80 Desert Island Discs guests.

They found that people imagining themselves in isolation preferred music reminding them of a time when they were aged between 10 and 30. They were are most likely to choose music that reminded them of an important person or an important turning point in their life. The researchers speculated these were ways for the individuals to define themselves.

The study found that the most frequent reason for choosing a song (17%) was that it reminded the guest of their relationship with a specific person. The second most frequent reason was that it was reminiscent of a memory of a period of time (16.2%). Finally, the third most popular reason was the song’s connection to specific memories relating to the formation of identity through life-changing moments (12.9%). 

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“Guests frequently chose songs because they were related to important memories that occurred during their teenage years. This extends previous findings by showing that music from this time has a particular meaning, primarily because it relates to memories from this very important developmental period of our life," said Professor Catherine Loveday, Neuropsychologist at the University of Westminster and Lead Researcher.

The study is published in Sage Journal.

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