Baby shark, doo doo doo doo doo doo…
Or what about – ‘Let it go! Let it go!’
There’s a Frozen 2 coming, parents, so that one will likely be replaced with something equally irritating, soon.
Hey, at least ‘The Final Countdown’ isn’t playing in your head.
Okay, I’ll stop now that you have one (or all) of those songs playing on repeat in your brain so that we can move on to how to get rid of them.
Take it away, Dr Ira Hyman for Psychology Today:
Almost everyone has had a song stuck in their head. Maybe it was a song you liked. But sometimes, a horrible song gets stuck.
To know how to erase a song stuck in your head, it’s helpful to know how one gets started.
Before we continue on this journey with Dr Hyman, watch this:
Back to the good doctor.
Most songs in your head are started by something in the world around you that reminds you of the song. Generally, that’s hearing the song. Fortunately, many of the songs you hear are ones you like. I generally only listen to songs I like. This means that most songs that get stuck in your head are songs that you like and know well.
How nice for you. Now, what about the rest of us who get exposed to songs that make us want to bang our heads against a wall?
For the song to start playing in your head, you also have to know it fairly well. For this reason, simple songs may often be replaying in your head. Songs with easy, repetitive melodies. You learn them quickly. And the baby shark song is a really easy song to learn.
Sorry, we’re back to ‘Baby Shark’. I have a feeling it’s going to recur so brace yourself.
Here are some ideas for chasing the baby shark from your mind. First, we should note that everyone has limited cognitive capacity. If that cognitive capacity is busy doing something else, then there will be less space for the baby shark to attack. But it isn’t simply keeping your mind busy. You’ll want to engage particular aspects of thinking; in particular, do something verbally. Songs involve the aspect of working memory that depends on holding sound patterns active. Limiting the space for songs is more likely if the activity in which you’re engaged is also a verbal task (Hyman et al., 2013). Have a conversation, read a book, watch a TV show. Each of these activities uses the cognitive resources needed for a song to repeat in your head. Each of these activities can chase the sharks away.
The Doc is really torturing that shark metaphor, but the basic idea is there. The song has to be replaced with an activity.
If that doesn’t work, you can try this:
Verbal thoughts, such as a song stuck in your head, also depend on articulatory planning; that is the planning involved in preparing to speak. Try chewing gum. Philip Beaman and his colleagues found that chewing gum disrupts the resources needed for planning speech and thus can decrease the rate of having a song in your head. This seems to work whether unintentionally having a song stuck in your head or if you are intentionally trying to think about a song.
You can also listen to different music or hum a different song to yourself.
Finally, you can take control.
Personally, I’ve just accepted that I will frequently have a song stuck in my head. Instead of despairing, I have decided to take control. I choose the songs I’ll have stuck by selecting to listen to music I like. I found this was critical when working with my students on earworm research. We had many different pieces of music playing, some of which I didn’t really like that much. At the end of each day, I simply played something I like. Thus I had control over what was playing in my head.
I believe in you.
Stock up on gum, and keep a playlist handy. Or just lean into it.
Your colleagues will definitely thank you for singing Frozen songs in the office.
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