The stuck song syndrome is an annoying phenomenon, but researchers may have found a way to get you out of the loop.
We all enjoy a catchy tune. However, that enjoyment quickly turns to irritation when the same song has been playing in your head all day. If you live with a child, you've probably had to listen to songs from children's shows every day. Have you ever tried to get the “Dora the Explorer” theme song out of your head? It's not pretty.
There are a number of names for this phenomenon. Some call it the stuck song syndrome, others call it sticky music or a brainworm. Others also call it an earworm, which actually sounds quite apt. A more scientific term is involuntary musical imagery (INMI), which kind of makes the irritating phenomenon sound better than it actually is.
There are a number of studies on what causes songs to play on repeat in your head. Better yet, there are also studies on how to squash that earworm, at least until the next one comes along.
According to one study, an earworm has a higher chance forming when you're thinking too much or too little. Having heard that particular song recently is also a prevalent cause. Memories, objects, and experiences that you associate with particular songs are also possible triggers.
These findings give a reason as to why the stuck song syndrome is so common and happens so often. There is a wide range of triggers, most of which are completely random. While many people consider their earworms to be quite pleasant, others may experience distress or anxiety. This may be because the song is really irritating, or they associate the song with unpleasant memories or feelings.
Meanwhile, an older study has found that if you're more musically-inclined, you experience earworms differently. Earworms in people who like music more tend to last longer and are more difficult to get rid of.
The researchers in the first study stated above also surveyed how participants deal with stuck song syndrome. Some people opt to simply wait for the song to go away instead of trying to find ways to make it go away. They may even choose to sing or hum the song out loud. Others use musical distraction, which means listening to other songs that will edge the earworm out. They also use other means of distraction, like talking or immersing themselves in an activity.
Meanwhile, there are those who avoid getting earworms by avoiding music altogether.
There are also “cure” songs that the participants listen to when they want to get rid of an earworm. These songs include “Kashmir” by Led Zeppelin, “God Save the Queen”, and “Sledgehammer” by Peter Gabriel. Another choice is “Karma Chameleon” by Culture Club.
However, won't these cure songs turn into earworms themselves? After all, “karma-karma-karma-karma-karma chameleon” seems like prime earworm material. Maybe if you enjoy the song, no matter how “sticky” it is, you won't mind the stuck song syndrome it can cause.
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