Do you have an “earworm”?
Don’t stop believing. Hold on to the feeling.
Hey, I just met you, and this is crazy. But here’s my number, so call me maybe.
Do these or other songs ever get stuck in your head? If so, you are not alone.
According to a 2017 study in the Journal Psychology of Music, more than 90 percent of adults experience hearing a song repeat on a weekly or more frequent basis. This phenomenon is called involuntary musical imagery—also known as “earworms”.
The songs may be triggered by recent musical exposure, low attention states and associations between memories, and tend to play on repeat for an average of 30 minutes. Some people don’t mind having an earworm, while others find them annoying or even maddening.
While psychologists don’t know exactly why songs get stuck in your head, some experts think they could be a memory aid of sorts; when songs seem to be difficult to banish, it could be related to having obsessive-compulsive traits. Whatever the reason, the songs tend to have similar characteristics. Most have a fast tempo with a common melodic shape and unusual intervals or repetitions.
So how do you stop these tunes from hijacking your brain?
Dr. Joanne May, Director of Outpatient Behavioral Health at Advocate Illinois Masonic Medical Center in Chicago, recommends engaging your working memory in tasks that require full attention such as Sudoku puzzles, watching a YouTube video or reading. If this doesn’t work easily, consider distracting yourself by singing a different song.
The website TheTopTens has an ongoing list of the “Ten Songs That Get Stuck in Your Head”. Do you agree? What song is always running in your mind? Let us know in the comments below.
About the Author
Angela Hacke is the manager of public affairs for Advocate Charitable Foundation. She has more than 17 years of experience in communications, and has been with Advocate for the last 12 years. In her free time, she enjoys hanging out with her family, exercising and reading.