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Music Entertainment Idle Science

Scientists Study Getting an Unwanted Tune Out of Your Head 219

Hugh Pickens writes writes "Richard Gray reports that scientists have found a way to help anyone plagued by those annoying tunes that lodge themselves inside our heads and repeat on an endless loop — when snippets of a catchy song inexplicably play like a broken record in your brain. The solution can be to solve some tricky anagrams to force the intrusive music out of your working memory allowing the music to be replaced with other more amenable thoughts. 'The key is to find something that will give the right level of challenge,' says Dr Ira Hyman, a music psychologist at Western Washington University who conducted the research. 'If you are cognitively engaged, it limits the ability of intrusive songs to enter your head.' Hyman says that the problem, called involuntary memory retrieval, is that 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. Dr Vicky Williamson, a music psychologist at Goldsmiths, University of London, says that the most likely songs to get stuck are those that are easy to hum along to or sing and found that that Lady Gaga was the most common artist to get stuck in people's heads, with four of her catchy pop songs being the most likely to become earworms – Alejandro, Bad Romance, Just Dance and Paparazzi. Other surveys have reported Abba songs such as Waterloo, Changes by David Bowie or the Beatles' Hey Jude."
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Scientists Study Getting an Unwanted Tune Out of Your Head

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  • Even injured? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by thereitis (2355426) on Monday March 25, 2013 @01:15PM (#43273927) Journal

    Mountaineer Joe Simpson famously reported being bothered by a song he hated – Brown Girl in the Ring by Boney M – as he lay injured on a glacier in Peru. Fearing he might die, the tune played endlessly in his head, he later recalled.

    I would have thought being injured and fearing for your life would be enough to drive a song out of your mind, but apparently not! Though I wonder if shock might bring on this sort of "looping" in your mind, focusing on something else as a form of escapism.

  • by s.petry (762400) on Monday March 25, 2013 @01:28PM (#43274117)

    There was a similar study long ago not dealing with how to get the song out alone, but also what the cause of the song being stuck was. The majority of cases tended to be related to the brain not being able to remember or work out a part of the song. That study also gave the easiest remedy to the issue: Listen to the song from start to finish without interruption. In a majority of their test cases, the playing of the song jogged the memory and filled in the gaps allowing the brain to move on to other things.

  • by Capt.DrumkenBum (1173011) on Monday March 25, 2013 @01:29PM (#43274149)
    For me, if the song is looping, I just need to finish the song, then the loop is broken.
    Just listen to the whole song and the loop is broken.
  • Re:no subject (Score:5, Insightful)

    by dpilot (134227) on Monday March 25, 2013 @02:12PM (#43274665) Homepage Journal

    Obviously not enough Slashdotters have had children...

    This is the song that never ends,
    It just goes on and on my friend.
    Some people started singing it, not knowing what it was,
    And they'll continue singing it forever just because...

    Credits to the late, great Sherri Lewis

  • by Quirkz (1206400) <ross&quirkz,com> on Monday March 25, 2013 @05:19PM (#43276513) Homepage
    The songs that get stuck in my head are ones I don't know well enough to finish.

Every little picofarad has a nanohenry all its own. -- Don Vonada