Thursday, April 12, 2012


Those Weird Designs, They Only Show What's Going on in Weirder Minds

As well as containing repetition, music is also unusual among the things we regularly encounter for being so similar each time we hear it. Fences are visually repetitive, for example, but each time you see the same fence you will look at it from a different angle, or in different light. Put a song on your stereo and the sound comes out virtually identical each time. Remembering is powerfully affected by repetition, so maybe the similarity of music engraves deep grooves in our mind. Grooves in which earworms can thrive.

The BBC explains earworms — snippets of music that get stuck in your head — and offers a possible solution: think of a similar song. ("My arm hurts." *WHACK* "Now my other arm hurts!") What's similar to this?

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Cool, I just got effing Kylie Minogue stuck in my head just from reading that article. Fghfjhdfkd!

But, I was hoping it would answer the question as to why I wake up every single morning with a song stuck in my head. These songs are usually completely arbitrary songs that I haven't heard for weeks or months or years, so I don't know how they get there. And they are usually AWFUL (one morning last week it was Enrique Iglesias; a few years ago, I woke up with Taylor Swift in my head every day for two months).


Same thing happens to me! I often wonder if I was dreaming about a certain song in the night. Then I wonder what the hell my brain was doing dreaming of "Stayin' Alive."


@Dancercise I know! Sometimes I think my dreams must have a background soundtrack that was chosen by a 13-year-old who solely listens to a radio station called "Top 40 Hits of the 90s & Today!"

Creature Cheeseman

@olivebee This morning I woke up with that song that's like "bring me two pina coladas.. one for each hand. lets set sail with captain morgan..." No idea what I was dreaming about.


@olivebee ME TOO! Although last week it was mostly 'Cameo Lover' which was fine with me.

fondue with cheddar

@Dancercise I read somewhere that the tempo of "Stayin' Alive" is perfect for CPR.


@jen325 Yes - there have recently been adverts in the UK using it for that reason.


Thanks for this post, it's really useful@a


this confirms to me that if i start to use annoying songs as mnemonic devices for the tons of memorizing i do for school, then i'll be much more successful... maybe for the polyatomic ions? anyone?


My junior year of high school, my English teacher taught us songs having to do with various English-y things by rewriting lyrics to popular songs. To this day, I can sing about classicism and romanticism to "Silver Bells," the Fireside Poets to some hymn that I can't remember the name of.


@teenie I have always said that changing popular song lyrics to educational information would make it a gazillion times easier for people to learn. Or just putting certain lessons into song form, that you then play repeatedly. I mean, I can remember song lyrics to songs I haven't heard in 15 years.

Judith Slutler

@olivebee I know I can still sing Schoolhouse Rock songs to this day, so I bet you're right!

@olivebee Confession: I passed Torts because of a youtube video called "The Torts Shuffle."

Porn Peddler

Alright, what's similar to "Because I Got High?"


@Third Wave Housewife GOD DAMMIT.

Porn Peddler

@Craftastrophies LAAAAAA-DAT-DAT-DA-DA-DA!


@Third Wave Housewife Noooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo.

sarah girl

@Third Wave Housewife

I was gonna find another song
But then I got high...




@Slutface YES! What is similar to that song? (...Phil Collins?) Why can't I get it out of my head?


@Tiktaalik With the right drum beat, it would sound so much like a song by The Police.


@applestoapples Agreed!

Reginal T. Squirge

I usually don't have problems with any words (for instance, "moist" is totally fine with me and I don't understand why so many people hate it) but "earworm" is just the worst. Just say it's a catchy song! Don't put the image/feeling of a worm in my ear in my head!


@ReginalTSquirge@twitter YES


@Megan Patterson@facebook Um yes. I saw the picture. I saw the word earworm. I died a little until I read the rest of the post. HORRORS!

miss buenos aires

The VERY best way to escape an earworm is to start singing any ABBA song. It will dominate your interior soundtrack for several hours! (This trick is better if you enjoy ABBA. As I do.)


@miss buenos aires ABBA! ABBA holds a special place in this heart of mine. I would certainly not complain about having one of their songs in my head. Especially "Gimme, Gimme, Gimme" (my favorite).


@miss buenos aires The Muppet Song is my go-to earmworm destroyer. Catchy enough to get stuck in my head, displacing whatever was there, not catchy enough to stay. My friend swears by the Mission Impossible theme song, but I find that too irritating.

Judith Slutler

A man we passed just tried to stare me down
And when I looked at you, you looked at the ground
I don't know who he is, but I think that you do


The best earworm buster is "The Gambler" by Kenny Rogers. There's not enough repetition to stick, but you know all the words well enough and can mumble and forget the ones you don't. I believe that science proved this, but I can't find a link.



You're welcome.

Blackwatch Plaid

@CharethCutestory It just played me the Happy Days theme story, which is great on its own, of course. But then I saw your username and was even happier, because of the Ron Howard connection.


@glittercock I.. got 'you spin my right round' by Marilyn Manson.



@glittercock One time it played me the whistling theme song from the Andy Griffith Show (Ron Howard again!), mixed with Single Ladies. WHAT?


The second point might be valid for contemporary music, but what about back in ye olden days (aka almost ALL of history) when recorded music didn't exist? Either a) canned music makes earworms more prevalent and they have existed due to some other feature of music (such as, in the article, its inherent tendency towards iteration) or b) earworms are a product of the late 19th century. I want answers!


@pharmakeus Hymns or spirituals maybe? Troubadours and bawdy house songs? I would hate to think this little torture is a recent problem.


@pharmakeus I have two ideas for how this can happen:

1) time travelers can research it, if can find people who are both time travelers AND willing to do your research (I personally think this is unlikely) (Doctor Who doesn't do research)

2) the hairpin gets an Ask an Earworm column


Awwww... now i am imagining trawling through the manuscript libraries of the ancient Earworm culture, trying desperately not to accidentally murder my own ancestors in the process.

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