Earworms: The Science of Songs That Stick In Your Brain

  • Share
  • Read Later
Peter Dazeley/ Photographer's Choice/ Getty

Researchers at Goldsmiths College, part of the University of London, believe they are on course to crack the code which makes some tunes, known as earworms, stick on repeat inside out heads. They say the results of their studies could be used to compose the perfect pop song, as well as enhancing our understanding of how the brain processes music.

More than 90 percent of people are estimated to experience earworms regularly, according to one recent study and, in an effort to learn more about the phenomenon, the research team is asking web users to share their experiences in an online “Earwormery”. Lauren Stewart, who co-directs a masters degree course in Music, Mind and Brain at Goldsmiths, said that earworms remained largely a mystery to psychologists. Some instances could be linked to certain thought processes, such as a song lyric relevant to your situation that comes to mind, but often earworms come to us completely randomly. “What’s interesting to us is the fact that this spontaneous musical imagery comes without any conscious effort– as if from nowhere. At the moment, we’re still trying to figure out why that happens,” she said. (Can’t Get That Stupid Britney Spears Song Out Of Your Head? We can help.)

By analyzing common characteristics of the tunes known to be very catchy, the researchers are also working on a formula to determine the “stickiness” of a piece of music. Their findings so far suggest that the catchiness of something is the result of a particular balance of certain pitch intervals and particular rhythmic structures. The formula can currently predict whether a tune is likely to be an earworm with approximately 75 percent success. (Check out the Top 10 Unforgettable TV Sounds)

Lets just hope they don’t sell their secret to the music industry. NewsFeed doesn’t think it can take anymore “earworms.” (via CNN)