Certain songs, especially TV and film theme tunes, are designed to stick in your head. While some people may enjoy having an internal jukebox, others enjoy it less. If you are amongst the latter, good news! Scientists claim they have discovered how to make the brain block out the offending tunes.
“Earworms” are typically both catchy and annoying, with an upbeat melody and repetitive lyrics. According to researchers, one way to break the repetitive cycle is to solve anagrams, or do something that is mentally engaging.
The research suggests that solving anagrams or reading a novel are good ways to keep earworms out. Dr Ira Hyman, a music psychologist at Western Washington University explained, “if you are cognitively engaged, it limits the ability of intrusive songs to enter your head. Something we can do automatically like driving or walking means you are not using all of your cognitive resource, so there is plenty of space left for that internal jukebox to start playing. Likewise, if you are trying something too hard, then your brain will not be engaged successfully, so that music can come back.”
Chart topping songs of Lady Gaga such as Alejandro, Bad Romance, Just Dance, and Paparazzi came out as strong contenders for earworms. Katy Perry’s California Girls also rated highly. Hyman added: “Choruses tend to get stuck in your head because they are the bit we know best and because we don’t know the second or third verse, the song remains unfinished. Unfinished thoughts are more likely to return.”
Here is a playlist of some of the catchiest tunes, as used by the researchers, along with some of our favourite TV tunes that are sure to stick in your head for hours. Press play if you dare.