Musicus annoyus. The humble common earworm. A minor plague upon humanity, to be certain, but Sofia Lyons brings us this latest prescription:
I get at least one song stuck in my head every day, and many of my favorite tunes have been completely ruined after their hundredth mental play-through. Science of Us has grappled before with the question of how to get rid of an earworm, but new research recently published in the Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology suggests that there’s been a simple solution all along: chew gum.
Testing the theory that interfering with “articulatory motor programming” — that is, the motor skills involved in speech — by chewing can disrupt the formation of unwanted musical memories, researchers at the University of Reading conducted three experiments involving chewing gum and listening to catchy tunes. (The initial idea for the research came from an inauspicious source: an anonymous online post touting the anti-earworm benefits of chewing on cinnamon sticks.)
To the one, we might wonder if M. annoyus actually has any dangerous manifestations in the world. Would it not explain, well, something, if it turns out this or that ridiculous explosion of human damage occurred because the shooter or knife-wielding maniac or whoever just couldn’t stop hearing One Direction in his head?
Which raises a serious question about the ethics of these experiments. That is to say, as a matter of professional integrity, we might wonder at the wisdom and propriety of any experiment obliging subjects to listen to David Guetta or Maroon 5.
Lyons, Sofia. “A Simple Trick to Get a Song Out of Your Head”. Science of Us. 29 April 2015.
Beaman, C. Phillip, Kitty Powell, and Ellie Rapley. “Want to block earworms from conscious
awareness?B(u)y gum!” The Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology. 21 April 2015.