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Ear worms, and how to deal with them


When I think of ear worms (otherwise known as songs that get stuck in your head), I think of Gotta Wash That Man Right Outta My Hair; or the Marineland commercial; and even unknown snippets of music that I might have heard in an office or elevator somewhere. Having those tunes buzzing around and around and around can drive me crazy.

Studies are showing that it’s when your brain is either under-stimulated or over-stimulated that the ubiquitous ear worm is most likely to embed.

So the trick is to be just busy enough and that’s where the puzzles come in. Studies found that five-letter anagrams are the best puzzles, but that sudoku works too. The reason is, these puzzles will engage your brain “just enough” to keep that pesky ear from being prominent.

This is how the researchers did it, they:

surveyed 299 students, playing songs by Lady Gaga, Carly Rae Jepson, Beyoncé, the Beatles, Rihanna and Taylor Swift. The students rated the songs, then completed puzzle tasks, reporting back immediately after the puzzles, and then again 24 hours later on whether the song had returned. (Lady Gaga had the most addicting songs, according to the study.)

Interestingly, the researchers found that it’s not even necessarily the most annoying songs that get stuck in people’s heads the most, but songs they actually like. [Says the original article’s author] I hope that’s not true for everyone, because it means I’ve profoundly misunderstood my own taste in music.


Read more: CNET.

More stories about psychology.

Photo credit: Olly – Fotolia.com

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