Why do some people get earworms more than others?
"I can't get you out of my head..."
Asked by: Elly Fenlon, London
Surveys have revealed that the more important a person considers music, the more likely they are to experience earworms (catchy songs that play repeatedly through your mind). Psychologists consider earworms to be a specific kind of ‘involuntary memory’, so these associations make sense – the more you think about, practise, or listen to music, the more chance that memories of those experiences will spring to mind of their own accord.
Personality is another relevant factor, with people high in the trait of open-mindedness being more prone to earworms (this is understandable given that this trait correlates with time spent listening to music). Another study found that people with less mental control were no more likely to experience earworms, although they did find them more disruptive and harder to stop.
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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.
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