The song ‘Baby Shark’ is constantly stuck in my head and it’s driving me crazy. How can I get rid of it?
Like a broken record stuck on repeat, earworms can get stuck in our heads and drive us barmy. Don’t worry, BBC Science Focus is here to help press the stop button.
You could try chewing some gum – a few years ago, psychologists showed that this reduced volunteers’ susceptibility to earworms, the theory being that chewing somehow hijacks the brain processes that are involved in ‘subvocalisations’ (singing or speaking in your head).
Another approach is to engage your mind with a task, such as a crossword or number puzzle, that is of just enough difficulty that your mind doesn’t start to wander. The idea is to use up your cognitive resources so that your brain doesn’t have the capacity to start playing its own music. Beware, though: if the task you take on is too easy or tricky, your mind will wander again, and the song will likely resume.
A final approach is to engage with the earworm – one theory suggests that earworms get stuck because they are mere snippets and our brains don’t like unfinished business. Listen to Baby Shark all the way through and, fingers crossed, you might find it goes away.
Dr Christian Jarrett is a cognitive neuroscientist, science writer and author. He is the Deputy Editor of Psyche, the sister magazine to Aeon that illuminates the human condition through psychology, philosophy and the arts. Jarrett also created the British Psychological Society's Research Digest blog and was the first ever staff journalist on the Society's magazine, The Psychologist. He is author of Great Myths of The Brain and Be Who You Want: Unlocking the Science of Personality Change.