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What causes Earworms?

Web Watch has talked about the WORST EARWORMS EVER, but did you know that there are ongoing studies to really identify what causes earworms?

You do know what an earworm is, don’t you?

For those of you knew to the terminology – an earworm is just a fancy word that defines what happens when a song gets stuck in your head.  The theme for “it’s a small world” is often cited as the worst offender, but we know better.

The Earworm Inception
The Earworm Inception

But the BBC, along with researchers at the University of London, have decided to make a huge project out of earworms, and are asking for YOU to help them with their theories.

All you need to do is go to THE EARWORMERY and fill out a questionnaire.

They’ve already completed 3 different projects, with a 4th on the way:

  • What features do typical earworm music tunes have in common?  Are some tunes naturally earwormery than others?   The answer is yes – there are some predictors that have been identified.
  • What do people who experience earworms have in common?
  • What causes earworms?
  • Are there earworm cures?  (well, yes – Web Watch covered this one previously, so the researchers could save themselves tons of time by reading our previous post on the subject)

So let’s get to the original question – WHAT CAUSES EARWORMS?

It ends up that one of the primary triggering factors for earworms is a memory association.   Other times it was recent exposure to a specific song.  Mood, stress also helped.

But one consistent theme throughout was that earworms occurred when one was bored or otherwise ina “low attention state”.

So now you know that if you do get a song stuck in your head, you better stop being bored.  That will help it from happening again in the future.