We’ve all been there: you hear a catchy song and for days – or even weeks – on end you just can’t get it out of your head.
Known as an earworm or brainworm, the effect has been studied before – but its cause, and how to get rid of it, is poorly understood.
Now researchers say they have an answer; chewing gum after hearing a catchy song will help you think about it less often.
The study was carried out by scientists at the University of Reading.
In the research 98 volunteers were played the ‘catchy tunes’ Play Hard by David Guetta and Payphone by Maroon 5.
Over the next three minutes, they were then asked to hit a key every time they thought of the songs – while chewing gum, not chewing gum or tapping their finger.
While chewing gum, volunteers reported thinking of the song less often than when they weren’t chewing gum, or when they were told to tap their finger instead.
And chewing gum also reduced the amount they ‘heard’ the song in their minds by a third.
The study is the first to examine the effects of chewing gum on earworms – and it suggests it could also be used to stop other unwanted or intrusive thoughts.
‘Interfering with our own “inner speech” through a more sophisticated version of the gum-chewing approach may work more widely,’ said Dr Phil Beaman, from the University’s School of Psychology and Clinical Language Sciences, who led the study.
Can't get a song out of your head, researchers say they have an answer.