Skip to main content
Article thumbnail
Location of Repository

Earworms ("stuck song syndrome"): towards a natural history of intrusive thoughts

By Charles Philip Beaman and Tim I Williams

Abstract

Two studies examine the experience of “earworms”, unwanted catchy tunes that repeat. Survey data show that the experience is widespread but earworms are not generally considered problematic, although those who consider music to be important to them report earworms as longer, and harder to control, than those who consider music as less important. The tunes which produce these experiences vary considerably between individuals but are always familiar to those who experience them. A diary study confirms these findings and also indicates that, although earworm recurrence is relatively uncommon and unlikely to persist for longer than 24 hours, the length of both the earworm and the earworm experience frequently exceed standard estimates of auditory memory capacity. Active attempts to block or eliminate the earworm are less successful than passive acceptance, consistent with Wegner’s (1994) theory of ironic mental control

Publisher: British Psychological Society
Year: 2010
OAI identifier: oai:centaur.reading.ac.uk:5755

Suggested articles

Citations

  1. (1988). A framework for interpreting recency effects in immediate serial recall.
  2. A literary nightmare.
  3. (1999). Are musical obsessions a temporal lobe phenomenon?
  4. (2009). Characteristics of spontaneous musical imagery,
  5. (2008). Cognitive ethology: A new approach for studying human cognition.
  6. (1991). Consciousness explained.
  7. (2003). Dissecting earworms: Further evidence on the „song-stuck-inyour-head‟ phenomenon. In
  8. (2005). Hymns and arias: Musical hallucinations in older people in Wales. doi
  9. (2001). Identifying properties of tunes that get „stuck in your head‟: Toward a theory of cognitive itch.
  10. (1994). Ironic processes of mental control. doi
  11. (2005). Memory and attention in obsessive-compulsive disorder: A review.
  12. (1989). Modality effects and the structure of short-term verbal memory.
  13. (2008). Music and consumers.
  14. (2008). Music in everymind: Commonality of involuntary musical imagery. In:
  15. (2004). Musical hallucinations: Prevalence in psychotic and nonpsychotic outpatients.
  16. (2009). Musical obsession or pseudohallucination: Electrophysiological standpoint.
  17. (2007). Musicophilia: Tales of music and the brain. New York: Random House doi
  18. (1969). Precategorical acoustic storage (PAS).
  19. (2005). Sound of silence activates auditory cortex.
  20. (2007). Statistical methods for psychology (7th edition).
  21. (1935). The design of experiments.
  22. (2000). The episodic buffer: A new component of working memory?
  23. (1999). The meme machine.
  24. (2006). The perpetual music track: The phenomenon of constant musical imagery.
  25. (2007). The prevalence and nature of imagined music in the everyday lives of music students.
  26. (1976). The selfish gene.
  27. (2006). The use of experience-sampling methods to monitor musical imagery in everyday life.
  28. (2006). This is your brain on music: Understanding a human obsession.
  29. (1989). White bears and other unwanted thoughts. doi

To submit an update or takedown request for this paper, please submit an Update/Correction/Removal Request.