Sometimes you can never get a song out of your head and most of the time, it’s usually some song you find annoying or some jingle from an advert.
Well today, we want to tell you that thing is called an “earworm.”
For me, at some point, the earworm that wouldn’t let go off me was Kuami Eugene’s Angelaaaaaa!. Not the whole song, just the “Angelaaaaa!” I was in Uni at the time and it definitely had something to do with my roommate singing or playing it all the time but I’d wake up and all I could think of was “Angelaaaa!” I’d be at lectures and it’d just randomly pop in my head: “Angelaaa!”
It was torture. No offense to Kuami Eugene at all!
Now usually, when this happens, the one thing we all so desperately want is to get the tune out of our heads. But how do you do this?
We found some solutions and…they are backed by science!
1. LISTEN TO THE ENTIRE SONG.
Earworms tend to be small fragments of music that repeat over and over (often a song’s refrain or chorus). A 2014 study evaluated existing surveys of people’s methods for coping with earworms and found that one of the most effective behaviours is just listening to the whole tune. (Worked for me and “Angelaaaa!”) Participants said they actively engaged with the offending music: They hummed or sang it, figured out the tune’s title and the name of the singer, or listened to the full song instead of the unwanted snippet. Some people listened to other music immediately after the ending of the earworm-generating tune as well.
2. DISTRACT YOURSELF WITH SOMETHING ELSE.
Our brains are incapable of paying attention to more than one thing at a time, so any attempt to multitask are neurally doomed to failure. This limitation can be helpful when it comes to earworms. Strategies involving words, rather than music, can help nudge your brain away from the earworms and towards something else. Some effective remedies include talking with other people, meditation, prayer, watching TV, and reading…just keep yourself busy and distracted.
3. CHEW GUM.
In a 2015 study, researchers suspected that the act of chewing gum might interfere with the formation of the auditory imagery needed to experience an earworm. How? Chewing might hinder the motor programming involved in speech articulation and therefore could keep people from subvocalizing (saying the words to the songs in their heads). They found that vigorous gum-chewing did reduce the number of unwanted musical thoughts, but noted that not just any kind of motor activity leads to earworm reduction. When the study participants tapped their fingers upon the desk, they had more persistent earworms than when they chewed gum.
4. LEAVE IT ALONE.
Despite earworms’ involuntary and intrusive nature, research indicates that people actually don’t mind them that much. A daily diary study concluded that only a small percentage of earworms interfered with daily activities, and other research has found links between earworms and feelings of wellbeing, both before and while experiencing the inner tunes. Another study found that earworms occur more frequently for liked than for disliked songs.
For most people, earworms don’t play for very long and if you happen to love your internal soundtrack, just sit back and enjoy it while it lasts.
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