The Dangers of the Earworm


You’re walking in the woods. There’s no one around and your phone is dead. In the corner of your mind you hear it. An earworm in your head.

This is a Public Service Announcement regarding the dangers, and soon-to-be downfall, of the earworm. For too long humanity has suffered at the gut-wrenching, mind-consuming hands of these ridiculously catchy songs. Maybe it’s ‘Uptown Funk’. The Shia Labeouf song. Perhaps, to your horror, Britney Spears makes her ground-breaking comeback in the middle of your slumber. Or worse – the god damn Christmas songs. Whatever it is, we are all victim to at least one song that just won’t leave our head, no matter how many threatening END OF TENANCY signals we send from our brain. Earworms may not be physical parasites that crawl into your ear and lay eggs in your brain, but many would argue they’re equally annoying.

So, why do we fall victim to such horrific abuse at the hands of once-enjoyable music? Some scientists believe they are like suppressed thoughts: the harder you try not to think of them, the harder they play furiously in your mind. They feed off our resistance.

But no more. Humanity, as expected, has ways to fight back.

There are many methods to ease the record on repeat spinning frantically in your head. One method is to listen to the song in full. Give the worm what it wants, then it might leave. Or you could visualise physically stopping the song: lift the needle tentatively from that vinyl; tear out those metaphorical headphones. And some say listening to a song not worthy of earworm status removes it promptly, or attempting a particularly tough maths challenge in your head (but this is the most drastic of measures and should be utilised in only the most extreme cases).

Do not fear. They will not win

[Chiara Bullen –@bullieob]

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