Earworms are Taking Over Your Brain


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There's a new epidemic sweeping the nation. It's not an epidemic that will hurt or kill anybody, but rather annoy people.

Earworms. Imaginary worms that crawl into your brain via an interesting route - headphones, speakers or the radio. Here's the kicker: 99% of people are infected with these strange creatures, and 50% of people are plagued with them on a daily basis.

What are earworms? They are those annoying little buggers who get songs stuck in your head. This summer, they plagued me. I was tortured with hearing 'Call Me Maybe,' 'Party Rock Anthem,' and other bad songs over and over and over again in my head. 

James J. Kellaris, a professor at the University of Cincinnati, did a study on this strange phenomenon back in 2001. For this, he polled about 1,000 people. Of the people polled, 73.3% said a catchy pop song got stuck in their head, 18.6% had commercial songs pestering them, and 7.7% had some sort of instrumental medley going through their brains.

Kellaris noted that for a song to get stuck in peoples' heads, it has to have three qualities: a song that has repetitive elements (such as 'Call Me Maybe,'), is a very simple song (like 'Party Rock Anthem,' to an extent), or does something totally unexpected.

However, even though it seems like horribly annoying songs get stuck in our heads most often, something can trigger an earworm attack with our favorite songs, or songs we really enjoy. Take me for example. As I'm typing this out, Jack Johnson's 'Banana Pancakes' is going through my head. It's 11:50 at night. I love this song, but it makes me really want some banana pancakes. Can you see the problem here?

On the bright side, there is a way to live with earworms and not be annoyed. TLC's How Stuff Works has some helpful tips to try to get them to stop torturing you! I won't go into detail, but you can find all of the information right here.

And yes, I will be "That Girl" to leave you guys with a song guaranteed to be an indefinite earworm.



4 Comments

This is such an interesting topic and totally relevant to my life! I'm a singer through and through, literally I cannot withstand silence for more than 5 seconds without having to sing. It's funny because WHENEVER I am singing a song I always sing the same lyric over and over again, and I never realized their was a science behind it. Everyone always has the same songs stuck in their heads too, because they are simple or repetitive or really funky! It's intersecting to see that there are studies about this topic and that it is psychologically related. Also, after reading your article title I thought this blog was going to be about a literal worm in your body like the ones Andrew showed us extremely disturbing videos of...but it wasn't, so thanks for that.

I was honestly just thinking about this earlier today, wondering if there was some reason certain songs are more likely to get stuck in my head. I found an article on NPR* from earlier this year that supports the criteria for earworms that Kellaris found in his study. Vicky Williamson, the psychologist being interviewed, even talked about why this happens and how it is sometimes triggered by emotional states and stress.


*http://www.npr.org/2012/03/12/148460545/why-that-song-gets-stuck-in-your-head

Having earworms definitely gets annoying because you are trying so hard to get the song out of your head but there is no possibly way to get it out. It gets even more annoying when you are trying to study for a test but can't concentrate because all that you are thinking about is the song that is stuck aimlessly floating around in your head.

Lucky here is a 20 step way to attempt to get earworms out of your head before they distract you too much http://www.wikihow.com/Get-a-Song-Out-of-Your-Head starting with #1... walk like an egyptian by the bangles... who i have never heard of.

Whenever I get a song stuck in my head, I just take out my iPod and listen to the song if I have it, and then immediately listen to a different song afterwards. Sure, it may or may not get the second song stuck in my head, but at least it gets rid of the first one.

It's a company's marketing team's goal to advertise a product in such a way to make consumers remember their product, so they decide to take advantage of this earworm effect, sometimes at excruciating levels.

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