You just heard the opening bars to Gangnam Style, and that’s all it took. Now, you’re walking down the street with PSY in your brain and you can’t get it out. You have an important presentation in ten minutes. What the hell are you going to do?
Well, new research suggests that you won’t have to worry about it. Once you start your semi-constructive activity, the South Korean rapper should just OPPA vanish out of your head.
A new study published in the Applied Cognitive Psychology journal looks at earworms – those nagging, repetitive songs that people just can’t seem to unstick from their heads. Researchers found that in order to beat the worm, you need to engage your brain – get up and do something.
But don’t simply go for a walk, or start doing dishes. The study found that a person is more likely to be bitten by an earworm when they are bored or engaged in mindless tasks.
Ok, so you can set your mind on something complicated, right? Bust out those dusty Calculus books or something? Wrong. The study found that the other end of the spectrum is just a dangerous for earworms. Tasks that are too complicated also leave room for songs to set up shop in your brain.
The key is finding the sweet spot – something that engaging but not overly complex.
“You want to find the point at which you’re pretty engaged in a task so there’s not much room or consciousness for music to be playing in your head,” said the researchers. “For some people, it may be to read a book, or play a video game, or getting engaged in sports. It has to be something that fully engages the consciousness for that person.”
This isn’t the first study in recent memory to peg boredom as a cause for earworms. A study in the British journal Psychology of Music found that “low attention states” can trigger songs to get stuck in your head. They said that you’re more susceptible to earworms when you’re not paying attention, daydreaming, or generally slacking off.
That study also claimed other triggers, including highly affective emotional states, memory (when a song has significane), and exposure (pretty much hearing it a lot).[via NBCNews]