Episode 28: Why Songs Get Stuck In Our Heads

This is Episode 28 of PsychCrunch, the podcast from the British Psychological Society’s Research Digest, sponsored by Routledge Psychology. Download here.

Why do some songs get stuck in our heads? In this episode, our presenter Ginny Smith explores the psychology of earworms. Ginny hears about the possible evolutionary reasons for why we experience the phenomenon, learns what earworms can teach us about memory — and finds out how to get rid of them.

Our guests, in order of appearance, are Kelly Jakubowski, assistant professor of music psychology at Durham University; Petr Janata, professor of psychology at the University of California, Davis; and Michael K. Scullin, associate professor of psychology and neuroscience at Baylor University.

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Episode credits: Presented and produced by Ginny Smith. Mixing and editing by Jeff Knowler. PsychCrunch theme music by Catherine Loveday and Jeff Knowler. Art work by Tim Grimshaw.

Research from our guests includes:

Dissecting an Earworm: Melodic Features and Song Popularity Predict Involuntary Musical Imagery

Spontaneous mental replay of music improves memory for incidentally associated event knowledge.

Bedtime Music, Involuntary Musical Imagery, and Sleep

And Kelly Jakubowski’s website has more information, including a Spotify playlist of common earworms

Further background reading from the Digest:

Bedtime Music Can Disrupt Your Sleep By Triggering Earworms

How to kill an earworm

What triggers an Earworm – the song that’s stuck in your head?

A natural history of the Earworm – the song that won’t get out of your head

PsychCrunch is sponsored by Routledge Psychology

Routledge Psychology are giving PsychCrunch listeners the chance to discover even more ground-breaking research: free access to 5 articles of your choosing from over 4.5 million at tandfonline.com, plus a 20% discount on books at routledge.com.

For links to all our previous podcasts, check out our main podcast page

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