We’ve all had an annoying tune stuck in our heads that we can’t seem to get rid of – no matter how hard we try to focus on anything but that damn Britney/Katy/Taylor chorus.
But the next time it happens, you may want to reach for a stick of gum.
A team of scientists at the University of Reading, UK discovered that the best way to block those obsessive melodies is simply to chew some gum.
So-called “tune wedgies” (we love saying it too) are a real thing, affecting 99 per cent of individuals. Apparently, the part of our brain that processes auditory information is triggered when we listen to a song so, when we hear a familiar tune again, our mind fills in the rest…over, and over, and over.
But there is hope for sufferers – so don’t go banging your head against the wall just yet.
Dr. Philip Beaman, the academic leading the study, says that the act of gum chewing is similar to irrelevant sub-vocalization, which has proved to degrade short-term memory performance as well as auditory images. According to Beaman, these auditory images are less pronounced when people are engaged in tasks, and the irrelevant sub-vocalization of chewing reduces the repetition of those songs that stick.
His theory was the result of three separate experiments that exposed subjects to catchy tunes while either chewing or not chewing gum.
The first experiment measured both the effect of chewing gum on the conscious appearance of musical images, as well as the recurrence of tune wedgies once attempts to get rid of them had stopped.
As expected, it was shown that gum-chewing reduced the number of times the tune was consciously experienced in both music suppression and overt expression condition.
The second experiment examined the actual ‘hearing’ of music in participants’ heads, and also showed that chewing gun reduced the music in the participants’ heads.
Finally, the third experiment was designed to determine whether the effects of gum chewing were common to any kind of motor activity, or specific to the speech articulators only. The participants were subsequently asked to either chew some gum or tap their fingers to the beat of a novel melody. The results showed that motor activity in the form of tapping was less effective than the sub-vocal act of chewing in managing those pesky tune wedgies.
It all comes down to the gum.
So, basically, you may want to stock up on some Double Bubble the next time you turn on the radio.