To date, my method for banishing the dreaded earworm is to sing a song I actually like in an attempt to “trump” whatever piece of pop fluff is driving me batty — but apparently, scientists at Western Washington University, led by Dr Ira Hyman, have discovered a much better way.
The trick, it seems, is to solve puzzles — sudoku, for example — but by far the most effective puzzle was five-letter anagrams.
The reason for this is that engages the brain just enough. The abstract from the study “Going Gaga: Investigating, Creating and Manipulating the Song Stuck in My Head” states:
The return of intrusive songs depended on cognitive resources: people reported that intrusive songs returned during low cognitive load activities, and we found that overloading the cognitive systems with challenging activities increased intrusive song frequency.
That is, if your brain isn’t busy, you are far more likely to pick up an earworm; but if your brain is too busy or stressed out, you are also more likely to be plagued by a repetitive jingle. In order to have peace of mind, you have to engage your mind in the sweet spot: not too relaxed, but not too busy, either.
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