Megan Garber of The Atlantic provides her readers with a research-driven, peer-reviewed strategy to "fight the traumas of the earworm."
According to music psychologist Ira Hyman, who recently published a paper on earworm science in the journal Applied Cognitive Psychology, songs function much like puzzles in our brains: Music is catchy because its patterns and rhythms engage our minds like a crossword puzzle would. Listening to it -- really hearing songs' lyrics, particularly when they come in the form of a repetitive chorus -- requires some concentration, but not much of it. The stylings of Carly Rae Jepsen (and Beyoncé, and Rihanna, and Gaga, and The Beatles) fall into that cognitive sweet spot of attention and inattention, making them especially sticky. Oh-oh-oh.
Music is different from puzzles, though, in one significant way: While puzzles can be solved -- the crossword gets filled in, the anagrams get de-jumbled -- songs have no obvious solution. So they stay. And stay. And stay. Haunting and taunting and put-a-ring-ing in our ears.
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