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Lauren Admire | 31 May 2010 21:00

Is There an Earworm Stuck in your Head?

About 98 to 99 percent of the entire human population has had a song get "stuck" in their head at some point in their lives. Researchers call this an "earworm," when a catchy tune keeps playing over and over, and we have little to no say over when it starts, what song it is, or even when it should end. Andréane McNally-Gagnon, a PhD student at the University of Montreal and a musician, wondered if musicians were more prone to earworms than non-musicians.

In the study, 18 musicians and 18 non-musicians were asked to hum and record any songs that frequently get stuck in their head, noting their emotional state both before and after humming the song, as well.

McNally-Gagnon found that musicians tend to get longer-lasting earworm infections than non-musicians. Further, musicians were able to hum the song more accurately, typically only one key off from the original recording, while non-musicians were often two or more keys off.

Both groups experienced earworm when they were happy and doing something non-intellectual, like walking or driving. "Perhaps the phenomenon occurs to prevent brooding or to change moods," considered Sylvie Hébert, a professor working with McNally-Gagnon on the project.

Participants of the study were also asked to list 100 songs that were particularly prone to being earwormed. On the top of the list were songs such as "Poker Face," by Lady Gaga; "We Will Rock You," by Queen; "Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go," by Wham; and the Inspector Gadget theme song. Which songs get stuck in your head?

Source: Science Daily


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