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Opening Arguments

The earworm turns

Today's "researchers boldly state the obvious" report:

They are the songs you cannot get out of your head. Now scientists may have found a way to help anyone plagued by those annoying tunes that lodge themselves inside our heads and repeat on an endless loop.

Researchers claim the best way to stopping the phenomenon, sometimes known as earworms – where snippets of a catchy song inexplicably play like a broken record in your brain – is to solve some tricky anagrams.

This can force the intrusive music out of your working memory, they say, allowing it to be replaced with other more amenable thoughts.

But they also warn not to try anything too difficult as those irritating melodies may wiggle their way back into your consciousness.

For those unwilling to carry around a book of anagrams, a good novel may also do the trick.

The key is to find something that will give the right level of challenge,” said 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.

Wow. Concentrate enough on something else, and the song in your head will go away! What a discovery!

Of course sometimes you might find it wasn't worth the effort. What's worse, having an annoying earworm bug you for a few minutes or wasting that time on a meaningless anagram? It's sort of like thinking about something else as a way to, um, delay the inevitable during lovemaking. It works, sure, but at the cost of diluting the attention you should be paying to the experience.

I hate it when commercial jingles get stuck in my head. Just means they're as good at being catchy as they're supposed to be, I guess.


Harl Delos
Mon, 03/25/2013 - 8:57am

I question the credentials of anyonr who is studying "earworms" and doesn't know they are actually called earwigs.

Leo Morris
Mon, 03/25/2013 - 2:18pm

Don't think so, Harl. The term comes from the German "Ohrwum," which means, uh, "earworm." See here ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Earworm )