How to Kick a Song out of your Head

Why earworms happen, and how to fight them.

Image for post
Image for post

You’re not alone

Almost everyone catches an earworm at some point. In fact, most people come down with one on a weekly basis. They’re almost as common as hiccups. So common, in fact, we hardly think about them.

What causes earworms

It can seem like any kind of song can lodge in your brain. However, researchers have found the structure of the tune matters.

Why they’re so frequent

You’re more vulnerable to earworms in the midst of low attention states, i.e. when your mind wanders. During this time, the default mode network (DMN) of your brain takes over — the part responsible for self-generated thought, like daydreaming, and those “sudden epiphanies” we have.

We associate songs with memories

Thinking about a specific period or moment in your life can invite an earworm. For example, I first met my spouse during the summer of “Call Me Maybe” and “Somebody That I Used to Know.”

How to dig out an earworm

A few remedies exist. Some people suggest listening to the offending song all the way through. Or playing it backwards.

Chewing gum can help

Researchers at the British University of Reading tested this theory. They played the first part of catchy songs for three groups of students, then monitored them for three minutes afterward. The first group was asked to tap their fingers. The second was asked to chew gum. The third was told to sit and do nothing.

Written by

She’s the funny one.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store