Why can't I get rid of the song in my head?
August 31, 2010 11:42 PM   Subscribe

Someone just sang a stupid song, to himself; he sits next to me at work. Which raises a question: Why do songs get stuck in our brains for days? What is the scientific explanation for this phenomena? Is it an affect of modern life on the individual? Do we fear of loneliness?
posted by lipsum to Society & Culture (8 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: Perviously on MeFi: How do you get rid of earworms (a song that keeps repeating in your head throughout the day)?
posted by lipsum at 11:42 PM on August 31, 2010

Response by poster: (Please note this question is not a duplicate; why the previous question regards the HOW, I'm curios about the WHY)
posted by lipsum at 11:43 PM on August 31, 2010

posted by holgate at 12:38 AM on September 1, 2010

'"The Pain, The Pain": Modelling Music Information Behavior And The Songs We Hate' (pdf)

'Earworms (‘stuck song syndrome’): Towards a natural history of intrusive thoughts' (abstract)

As a side-note, I was disappointed to find that the Straight Dope website is included in Google Scholar searches…
posted by Pinback at 12:52 AM on September 1, 2010

Also, 'How the mind is easily hooked on musical imagery' (pdf)
posted by Pinback at 1:06 AM on September 1, 2010

I agree with advice on the previous thread to listen to the whole song, which surely points to the 'why' part.
posted by AmbroseChapel at 2:49 AM on September 1, 2010 [1 favorite]

I suspect it's related to our strong tendency to see faces or other recognizable forms in random shapes. The noisier modern life gets, the more tonic it is to blot it out with a simple, repetitive melody.
posted by Joe Beese at 5:34 AM on September 1, 2010

An anecdotal demonstration of the power of subliminal music (or something like that): years ago I worked in a small office with large-ish almost private office-like cubicles. I was listening to an 80s compilation CD via my computer speakers while I was working, with the volume fairly low as always (I had to be able to hear calls on the 2-way radio from our truck drivers). Anyway, the guy in the next cube walked over to the fax machine (across from my area) and as he waited for his document to transmit he started singing quietly "don't drink, don't smoke, what do you do...." He re-sang it a few times and then looked up and asked of no one in particular "Why am I singing that song?" I told him that "Goody Two Shoes" had played a while ago on my CD, and maybe he'd overheard it, and he responded "You're playing a CD?" He apparently hadn't been cognizant that there'd been music playing next door, but part of his brain absorbed it nevertheless.
posted by Oriole Adams at 12:29 PM on September 1, 2010

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