You have an annoying song stuck in your head, and you thought you’d stopped humming it hours ago, but it keeps coming back. How can you get that tune out of your head? Well, here are 3 ways.
- Concrete on Something Else
Try doing Sudoku, or some other mind-absorbing task.
That’s the method of distraction – prescribed by researchers from Western Washington University.
In their 2012 study, they explored the possibility of creating earworms intentionally, and how they could be manipulated.
Results indicated that those who engaged in moderately strenuous mental activity after listening to a song were less likely, if at all, to develop earworms.
Essentially, the study’s lead researcher Ira Hyman found that earworms are most likely to get stuck in our heads in periods of ‘low and high cognitive load’, such as walking and driving.
But at times of ‘more complete cognitive engagement’, such as watching a film, or playing a game, songs are less likely to keep coming back.
So, to get rid of an earworm, get distracted by something else that’s far more fascinating!
- Finish the Song
You have probably heard of the Zeigarnik Effect. It’s a phenomenon that occurs when our minds get ‘stuck’ in unfinished mental processes, and go on a ‘loop’.
Well, research has found that earworms sometimes occur because of the process.
The theory suggests that our brains can get so fixated on a part of something, that we just keep repeating it.
So, when we hear a song and don’t quite know the lyrics or the entire tune, our brains go on a ‘loop’ and repeat the same part over and over again.
The solution? Look up the song on the internet, or Spotify, wherever you can get your ears on it, and play the song in its entirety.
Researchers say that’s the only way to counter the Zeigarnik Effect – to let your brain finish the ‘incomplete’ process.
Want to know more about the strange effect? We wrote about it here.
- Chew Gum
Chewing gum benefits more than just your teeth. A team of researchers found that an extremely simple way to put an end to your annoying earworm is to chew gum.
That’s the finding of a 2014 study that showed gum chewing significantly lowered the number of ‘involuntary musical thoughts’, and on the whole, impairs the experience of listening to music.
Other research too, shows that chewing gum influences a person’s ability to bring to mind words from their short-term memory, and made it harder to recall sounds and music.
That’s the view held by researcher Phil Beaman from Reading University. He suggests that ‘earworms are essentially the re-appearance of musical memories in short-term memory, and if that is true then chewing gum should interfere with this process.’
Beaman explains that the reason chewing a piece of gum is so effective is because moving your mouth uses the exact same parts of the brain used for recalling short-term memories.
So, he says that if an earworm is indeed a musical memory, then one way to get rid of it is to interrupt the short-term memory by chewing gum.
What do you think? Try it out and let us know if any of these methods do the trick!