"I just can't get you out of my head" goes that very familiar Kylie Minogue song and it stays in your head rent-free on repeat. We've all experienced earworms. They're sometimes called brainworms or stuck song syndrome. Sometimes they can be annoying if you don't like the song, and other times, it's just annoying when you hear the song over and over in your head, but you don't even remember where you heard it, or what song it is.
What is it about these earworms and why do we get them? According to music psychologists, the auditory cortex, the part of our brain that perceives tone and auditory imagery, is responsible for why we experience earworms. When we hear a catchy song, the brain latches onto it, and even when we aren't actively hearing the song, it remains inside our heads and replays.
There have been some claims saying that people with ADHD or OCD experience earworms more often, but that's a misconception. It's completely normal for people to have earworms as often as once a week. Studies have shown that people with high openness to experience tend to have more earworms than usual.
Other studies that looked into people with obsessive-compulsive traits found that the types of earworms they experience are more disturbing and may be on the same category as musical obsessions and musical hallucinations, which are completely different from the typical earworms.
So, how do we get rid of the songs stuck in our head? Some suggest to listen to the whole song from start to finish. This allows our brain to complete the loop and find closure. Of course, not everybody finds this method effective. It might even worsen the situation.
Other methods include shifting your brain's attention toward something else, or replacing the song with another song. And if those still don't work, you can try chewing gum. And if these still don't work, we'll just have to accept that it'll be there for a while. It'll go away eventually.
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