For whatever reason, there are certain songs that, once heard, tend to play over and over again in your head. It's quite annoying, and try as you might, there's no easy way to purge the unwanted tune from memory, or so we've always thought. Well, guess what? Not only is it possible to get one of these so called "earworms" to wiggle on out, it's as simple as chewing on a stick of gum.
So says a new study on the subject conducted by researchers at the University of Reading's Centre for Cognition Research and School of Psychology & Clinical Language Sciences. What the study found was that chewing on gum interferes with articulatory motor programming. In doing so, the number of unwanted musical thoughts is reduced. The same is true for tunes that you're actively trying to remember -- chewing gum can get in the way.
Image Source: Flickr (Pen Waggener)
"This is consistent with other findings that chewing gum interferes with voluntary processes such as recollections from verbal memory, the interpretation of ambiguous auditory images, and the scanning of familiar melodies, but is not predicted by theories of thought suppression, which assume that suppression is made more difficult by concurrent tasks or cognitive loads," the researchers said.
According to the study, mashing gum in your mouth also affects the experience of hearing a tune, though not necessarily because you're distracted by what you're doing. During a series a experiments, the researchers had college students listen to clips of songs while either chewing gum or tapping on computer keys.
What they found was that tapping was better than doing nothing, but was far less effective than chewing gum when it comes to forgetting a tune.
You can read the full study here.