THE next time you have a song stuck in your head, reach for the chewing gum. The very act of grinding it around your mouth might be enough to kick that annoying earworm out of your brain, scientists have claimed.
Songs are less likely to re-appear in your head if you're chewing, according to a study at the University of Reading. People chewing gum are less likely to think about "sticky" songs, and less likely to hear them after they've stopped, the researchers found.
The findings could even show that chewing gum could also be used to keep annoying or recurrent thoughts from popping into people's heads.
At least 90 per cent of people experience earworms, which comes from the German word "ohrwurm", and 15 per cent of people would call them disturbing, according to research.
"The majority of us experience them for only short periods - perhaps just a few minutes - but others can experience them for two or three days which can be extremely frustrating and debilitating," said Phil Beaman, from the university's school of psychology and clinical language sciences, who led the study. "We wanted to explore whether a simple act like chewing gum could help."
Participants in the study were played Play Hard by David Guetta and Payphone by Maroon 5. They were then told not to think about the songs, and hit a key whenever they did. The people who were doing so chewing gum hit the key a lot less than those that were told to do nothing or tap their finger, the researchers found.
"Interfering with our own 'inner speech' through a more sophisticated version of the gum-chewing approach may work more widely.," Beaman said. "However more research is needed to see whether this will help counter symptoms of obsessive-compulsive and similar disorders."
The study, 'Want to block earworms from conscious awareness? B(u)y gum!' was published in Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology.
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