How to cure those annoying ear-worms!

We’ve all had them – those annoying song riffs that you just can’t shift from your brain no matter what. But what makes one song more annoyingly catchy than another? And how can you rid yourself of one of these ‘earworms’ when you get one?

Professor Emery Schubert, a researcher from the University of New South Wales in Australia, has found that earworms (‘involuntary musical imagery’) get into our brains when we’re relaxed. And certain songs will be more successful at this for key reasons.

Earworms tend to be the choruses of songs as they’re repeated throughout the song. However, an earworm is also more likely if you recently heard the song and you’re already familiar with it. The clincher that ‘activates’ the earworm is that you should be in a state of relaxation. If you’re focused on something you’re unlikely to be troubled by an earworm.

Of course, there are probably some useful questions here around how we recall and organise material in our brains, but what we really want to know is ‘how do you get rid of an earworm?’

Prof Schubert says, “You may be able to wrap up an earworm by either finishing off the music, consciously thinking of another piece of music, or by removing yourself from the triggers, such as words or memories that relate to the music or lyrics.”

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