Why do certain songs get stuck in our head?

03/07/2017

We’ve all been victim; a friend sings something out loud and the rest of the day the melody and lyrics are stuck in your head. From the Macarena to Let it Go often a good night’s sleep isn’t enough to get away from the haunting, but oh-so-good, melody.

According to a study published by the journal, Psychology of Music, 90% of the population reports getting a song stuck in their head at least one time per week.

While it is a a common problem, the type of song varies on the person and personal tastes.

What elements make up a catchy song?

Popularity - The more popular a song, the more likely you are to hear it and thus the more likely it will remain on the brain.

Composition - According to studies at conducted by Dr. Kelly Jakubowski at University of Durham, songs that are reported to get stuck in your head include the following elements:

  • A simple melody with a chorus that is easy to remember.
  • Irregular intervals.
  • A faster tempo. Tempo influences our brain and its ability to grasp songs as does physical activity and movement, reports show.

Tips to letting songs go

  • Listen or sing the song in its entirety - Listening to a song from start to finish allows your brain to let it go
  • Think of other things - Recent research published in the British Journal of Psychology shows that the more a person tried to not think about a catchy song, the more likely it was to stay! Try meditation, it may divert your thoughts.
  • Try a brain teaser - Performing tasks considered to work the brain (sudoku, crosswords, puzzles, etc.) can help strengthen it and distract the mind.
  • Chew gum - Participants in a study at the University of Reading reported that chewing gum helped to phase out the lyrics and melody faster than those who did not chew gum.

We've selected some catchy tunes that are equally fun to sing:


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