Top 3 Songs That Get Stuck In Your Head
1. "The Lion Sleeps Tonight"
2. "Baby Back Ribs" jingle from Chili's Restaurant
3. "Who Let the Dogs Out?"
Call it the playlist from hell. But the real No. 1 song that gets stuck in our heads is different for each of us, according to University of Cincinnati marketing professor James Kellaris. He's done so much research on this odd and annoying phenomenon that he has coined a term for it: earworm.
He told The Associated Press that earworm is unexpected and insidious. It might be the first song you hear on the clock radio that wakes you up. It could come from an elevator or the CD playing in the cubicle next to yours. "There are certain tunes that we would describe as catchy that are more likely to become one, but just about anything can become an earworm," he told AP. His personal earworm is Byzantine chants, which he suspects has something to do with his wife's job as a church choir director.
Stuck songs have these traits in common:
- They are relatively simple.
- They are repetitive.
- They contain an element that surprises the listener, such as an interrupted pattern or something that violates expectations of what comes next.
- The most common culprits are songs with lyrics.
- They stay stuck in our heads for a few hours on average.
There is no cure, but these treatments sometimes will work to rid your brain of the repetitive earworm:
- Don't worry about it. (If you take this advice, just don't listen to Bobby McFerrin's "Don't Worry, Be Happy" or you're sure to trade one stuck song for another.)
- Listen to different music.
- Distract yourself with another activity.
- Try singing the entire song--and not just the snippet that's stuck in your head--even if you can't quite remember all the lyrics.
- If that doesn't work, go find the forgotten lyrics. Kellaris theorizes earworm is the brain's attempt to resolve missing information. By finding out the complete lyrics to a song, you might be able to "unstick" it.
- Erase the offending song by singing the theme from "Gilligan's Island." (We have no idea why this would work, but if you're desperate...)
- There's even a folklore cure: Chew on cinnamon sticks.
Fun facts about earworm:
- Women experience more irritation and frustration than men do from earworms.
- People who are constantly exposed to music suffer from it more frequently.
- There may be a connection between earworms and a person's level of neurosis. (Uh oh.)
The research was presented at the Society for Consumer Psychology.