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A weekly show where we endeavor to answer one of your big questions. This week, Tobias Anderson asks, "Why do we get songs stuck in our heads?"


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Hi, I'm Craig-ella-ella-ay-ay and this is Mental Floss video. Today I'm going to answer Tobias Anderson's big question: Why do we get songs stuck in our heads? A song that gets stuck in your head has a name, an earworm, and today we're gonna tell you about some research on why earworms exist. Let's get started-arted-arted-ay-ay.


Let's start with some quick facts about earworms. According to one study, 92% of people get a song stuck in their head at least once a week and these songs often have particular qualities and they're probably terrible songs. In my case they are anyways. They typically contain long notes with minimal separation between pitches, also known as small pitch intervals. And what becomes an earworm from the song is usually only about eight seconds worth of the tune. Those eight seconds generally come from the chorus of the song. And according to one study you typically have to hear a song many time before it gets stuck in your head. So since the chorus gets repeated the most within a song it makes sense that it becomes the earworm. It makes sense that it becomes the earworm. It makes sense that it becomes the earworm.

Studies show that both women and men experience earworms about as often but women suffer them for longer periods of time. And certain people are more susceptible. People who claim that they find music extremely important will have more problems with earworms according to one study. The same goes for people who have obsessive qualities.

So let's get into some causes of earworms. One study conducted at Dartmouth College discovered that the auditory cortex in the brain might play a role. After playing a song that the study's participants knew, their auditory cortex would activate and the participant's brains could continue playing music even when the song was paused. According to the lead researcher "The auditory cortex that is active when you're actually listening to a song was reactivated when you just imagine hearing the song".

And there are a few things that might trigger earworms. As I mentioned earlier, a song is more likely to get stuck in your head after you've heard it a few times, after you've heard it a few times. So exposure is one. Studies also show that mundane tasks like chores and waiting in line are associated with earworms and the specific task may influence the earworm song. Like you might get the song Car Wash in your head when you're waiting (Sings) "At the car wash. Working at the car wash, yeah." That's the only part I know. There may be an emotional component as well. Earworms have been identified as a side effect of stress in some cases. And interestingly studies have shown that people report better moods after having a song stuck in their head.

Of course, now you're probably wondering how to get rid of an earworm. A couple tips: listen to the song a couple times, read a book, do a crossword puzzle, or solve some difficult anagrams. Or watch Mental Floss. I don't know if that will work but it'll be really entertaining for you.

Thanks for watching Mental Floss video which is made with the help of these earworms. If you have a big question of your own that you'd like answered, leave it below in the comments. See you next week. Seriously, get out of my head!