Eww, earworms! Sounds gross!

But what we’re really talking about is when a piece of repetitive music gets stuck in your head and plays over and over again — “I just can’t get ya outa my head”—it’s annoying!

Posted Wednesday November 1, 2023

Well, research shows there’s a formula for which tunes get stuck and some handy tricks to shake them off.

According to Professor Emery Schubert, University of New South Wales, earworms wriggle into our brains when we’re relaxed, so if you’re concentrating on a task, you won’t get an earworm. They’re not necessarily “catchy” melodies, but rather are short riffs that our brains are familiar with and are invariably repeated in the music—usually song choruses. It largely doesn’t matter what the music is, as long as repetition is part of its structure.

You may be able to silence an earworm by either listening to the whole song from beginning to end, removing yourself from triggers that relate to the music, such as words or memories, consciously thinking of some other tune, or playing a song that does not have a repetitive melody — “God Save the King”, perhaps.

If you missed it, you can listen to an RNZ interview with Professor Schubert.

Or read more about his research

Can’t get you out of my head: Australian research reveals the science behind earworms | Australia news | The Guardian

Or watch this great YouTube animation

Earworms: Those songs that get stuck in your head - Elizabeth Hellmuth Margulis - YouTube

Gallery

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