Many people experience the so-called last Earworms syndrome. This happens when songs like “I Will Survive” and “Bohemian Rhapsody” have been playing on an unending loop in your head. A psychologist revealed why some songs get stuck in our brain.
Earworms, the catchy piece of music that continually repeats through your mind even after the song is no longer played, typically develop when you have heard a song many times.
Andreane McNally-Gagnon, a researcher from the University of Montréal, who has studied earworms, said that people may not have heard the song recently but the song at some point in the past, has been played over and over and stuck in their brain.
This can explain why classical musicians tend to have the music they practice stuck in their heads. For most people, however, pop songs that play frequently on the radio are the ones more likely to become their earworms.
What a person does also affects his or her odds of picking up an earworm. Most people are doing something that is routine or mindless when an earworm strikes. Doing household chores, waiting for the bus or taking a shower are some instances when earworms commonly strike. People’s minds are not occupied when they perform these tasks.
Do earworms serve any purpose? McNally-Gagnon found that people are more likely to feel positive emotions after an earworm has taken hold than before it struck. She said that one possible function of earworms is emotional regulation.
Research into earworms may also provide researchers more insights about other aspects of our memories. It was earlier thought that people kept only a representative memory of a song in their head. This meant that when people sing it, they would sing the song at a different speed or in a different key than the original.
In her study McNally-Gagnon asked people to sing their earworms and found that their performance closely matched the original song in key, pitch and pacing. Findings of the study suggest that songs, like visual memories, are absolute. The brain holds all the details of the notes and phrasing of the song.
Frequently named earworms include Lady Gaga’s “Bad Romance”, Kylie Minogue’s “Can’t Get You Out Of My Head”, Katy Perry’s “California Gurls” and Maroon 5’s “Moves Like Jagger”.
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