Why Songs Get Stuck in Your Head

Jai Dearing, Staff Writer

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It seems that during the simplest of tasks, songs like  Who Let the Dogs Out will start playing in your head, and you can’t help but to sing along. These songs that get stuck in your head, or just play on a loop mentally, are called ear worms. Now why exactly these ear worms get stuck in your head, scientists can’t yet pinpoint.


Scientist Elizabeth Margulis says that ear worms are usually fragments of a song, specifically, the chorus. Ear worms are extremely common. In fact, a study found that 91 percent of people have ear worms, and 25 percent of people have them more than once a day. Songs that most likely cause ear worms are found to be fairly simple. Also, a study conducted in 2013 found that to cause an ear worm, the song needs to be quite familiar to you. Basically, once you listen to a song 4-5 times you will be more likely to develop an ear worm of that song. Some may think that ear worms are always annoying songs, but usually it’s just because the song is memorable to you. Sticky ear worms are songs that have a faster tempo, longer notes, and smaller intervals between pitch.


The next time a song starts blasting on loop in your head, remember, there’s a scientific reason for it: an ear worm. Ask yourself: Does this song have a faster tempo? Do I listen to this song often?


Do you have a specific ear worm that always comes back? Share in the comments below!


Some of the most common ear worms are:


  • Empire State of Mind
  • What Does the Fox Say
  • Y.M.C.A
  • Who Let the Dogs Out



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