Often when we listen to a song, it goes round and round in our head, as if it’s on repeat for hours throughout the day. This is normal and very common, and although it's sometimes due to the fact that we like the song and/or melody in question, there are other times when a song that we hate gets stuck in our brain in the same way and we end up humming it over and over.
Why does it happen?
Well, the elements responsible for this phenomenon are: the song structure and the personality of the person.
Researchers have discovered that catchy songs or “earworms” often have repeated notes and time intervals, in addition to distinctive tone patterns and rhythms.
According to scientists, they have a simple structure, but they still have an element that makes them unique.
"The general conclusion is that the song has to be simple enough to be remembered spontaneously, but it also has something a little unique that makes the brain want to repeat it over and over again," said Kelly Jakubowski, postdoctoral researcher at the Department of Music at Durham University in the United Kingdom.
There is evidence that people with obsessive-compulsive traits experience these types of episodes more frequently than others.
Some experts say that the more we try to get a song out of our heads, the more it will stick and so trying to force it to stop won't help much. Of course, having a song stuck in your head isn't necessarily a bad thing given that it keeps our brain active to a certain extent.
And how can you get that song out of your head?
You can try singing another song, thus making your brain focus on a different melody.
It also helps to listen to other songs one after another so that your brain doesn't have the chance to pay attention to the song that's tormenting you. Or simply listen to the song you have stuck in your head from beginning to end so your brain can fill in the gaps it has and, with any luck, throw it out.
So next time you have an earworm, you’ll know how to get rid of it.
English Translation by Martin Cosgrove