The science of ear-wormery…

Mar 9, 2012 | Musings

You know when you get that song stuck in your head and it goes round and round and round… (hands up who’s now got Blur’s Parklife stuck there). That, in case you didn’t know, is an earworm. There are a number of triggers – sometimes it is just the last thing you heard on the radio or it could be word association or even stress.

We quite often end up with the whole office humming Do you know the way to San Jose when we hear from a particular client. And I also find myself singing Constant Craving whenever I use a certain email marketing program (now that’s taken over from Blur…).

Psychologist Victoria Williamson has been studying earworms for a number of years and is an expert on both musical and non-musical memory. She has collected many earwormery stories and experiences through an online survey at her website, and believes our involuntary thoughts are all to do with the memory processes in our subconscious brain.

So next time something pops into your head uninvited (I’ve now got the theme tune from The Dukes of Hazard – no idea why…) you can blame it on neuroscience, and not just your annoying colleague who is humming away in the corner… And just keep thinking of new worms to drive the old ones out!

Read more at the BBC.


Photo: © Shannon Neal |