Smarts
Charlotte Hannah
March 25, 2013

Science Discovers Way to Get Annoying Songs Out of Your Head


Photo credit: 604 Records

This is the song that never ends! It will go on and on my friend! Some people started singing it not knowing what it was! Then people kept on singing it forever just because it is the song that never ends …

Is it stuck in your head yet? OK, good. Thanks for unwittingly participating in my experiment. See, I know how you can get that annoying little earworm out of your head … but the answer will cost you a hundred bucks. Email me and I’ll tell you where to send the money.

OK, I’ve just been informed by my editor that we’re not allowed to extort our readers. Fine. I’ll tell you.

All you have to do is solve a few anagrams. Specifically those that are five words long. It’s as easy as that. Apparently, the process of solving anagrams uses up enough of your cognitive resources that earworms are forced out of your working memory and back into the dark pit of despair from whence they came – but not enough of them that your brain gets frustrated and disengages, thus inviting the tricky tunes back in.

Research done by Dr. Ira Hyman, a music psychologist at Western Washington University, suggests that five-letter anagrams are the most effective at dislodging irritating songs from the crevices of your psyche. Interestingly, getting into a good novel seems to have the same effect – but solving mazes and difficult Sudoku puzzles doesn’t.

“Something we can do automatically like driving or walking means you are not using all of your cognitive resource, so there is plenty of space left for that internal jukebox to start playing,” explained Dr. Hyman. “Likewise, if you are trying something too hard, then your brain will not be engaged successfully, so that music can come back. You need to find that bit in the middle where there is not much space left in the brain. That will be different for each individual.”

Got it? Good. Now enjoy this lovely song: