Earworms — songs that are stuck in your head — can be countered by chewing gum, a new study finds.
Having a song going around and around in your head is a very common occurrence.
Almost everyone reports having experienced it.
While some say it’s not a problem, others find it disturbing, distracting and even an obstacle to thinking.
The new technique to fight off earworms was inspired by an anonymous online comment at the Exploratorium museum website.
One reader suggested that they managed to get rid of earworms by chewing on cinnamon sticks.
This made sense to the UK psychologists at the University of Reading who conducted the study.
This is because, they write:
“…co-opting the articulatory motor programme to chew the gum impairs the involuntary recollection of an auditory image.
This is consistent with data showing that chewing gum can affect immediate memory for verbal material.” (Beaman et al., 2015)
In the study some people were asked not to think about a song by David Guetta featuring Flo Rida and Akon called “Play Hard”.
Should you be unfamiliar with this life-changing masterpiece, here it is:
(People weren’t forced to watch the video as well — psychologists have some ethical standards you know.)
Sometimes participants chewed gum while trying not to think about the song, other times they just sat there.
In the three minutes people just sitting there thought about the song around 10 times.
Those chewing gum thought about the song around 7 times.
Not bad seeing as they had just listened to the song and some had been told not to think about it — a method usually guaranteed to make you think of nothing else.
The study’s authors explain the mechanism:
“…an articulatory motor activity—in this case, chewing gum—interferes with the experience of “hearing” musical recollections both voluntarily, or at any rate without any specific instruction to suppression the recollection…”
The study is published in The Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology (Beaman et al., 2015).
Hands over ears image from Shutterstock