How Chewing Gum Can Get Rid Of Earworms

Earworms — songs that get stuck in your head — affect more than 99 percent of people, and scientists know loads about why they happen and who they happen to. Until recently, though, they didn't have very reliable ways to get rid of them.

A 2015 study published in the Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology proposed a cheap and easy solution: chewing gum. University of Reading scientists noted that past research has found that irrelevant subvocalization, such as reading silently, interferes with "auditory images" — thoughts that take the form of sound, like remembering a friend's tone of voice or the melody of a subway chime — and reduces short-term memory. Since the act of chewing is similar to the physiology of subvocalization, they decided to find out whether chewing gum could get rid of earworms.

Turns out it not only reduced the number of times subjects both thought about and "heard" the tune in their heads, but it also did a better job of getting rid of earworms than other motor activities like tapping to the beat of a new song. We've collected some awesome videos on this topic. Watch them now to learn more.

Key Facts In This Video

  1. The term "earworm" entered the English language in the 1970s by way of the German word "ohrwurm." 00:52

  2. The Zeigarnik Effect makes your brain keep a task that's in progress in your working memory, then tosses it out when you're done. 03:54

  3. Chewing gum may interfere with the same processes your brain is using to play the song. 05:14

Written by Ashley Hamer July 20, 2016

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