Parlor Spider...Step In, Little Fly

Insightful thoughts and/or rants from atop the soapbox from one who wishes to share the "right" opinion with everyone.

Wednesday, March 07, 2012

"Just Sit Right Back, and You'll Hear a Tale..."

I think I see an earworm in there!

It's happened to you. You know it has, and like a nasty mosquito or your least favorite relative, you cannot seem to get away from it. Called "cognitive itch" by some, "involuntary musical imagery" by the more erudite, or simply "earworm" (most commonly), that helplessly irritating feeling one gets when a song gets stuck in his or her head and WILL NOT LEAVE has beleaguered us all. And, like the common cold, the causes are somewhat varied and mysterious, but not as difficult to decipher as the remedy.
Psychologist and memory expert Victoria Williamson has been doing memory research for a very long time, especially in the area of "involuntary musical imagery." She has catalogued more than 2500 songs that have been reported to her as getting stuck in people's noggins for a maddeningly long time. Ironically, among the songs on her record (so to speak), almost none of them have been reported more than indication that this malady, while afflicting everyone, has no central theme. Williamson solicited reports from people through (you can add your story or read others' there as well).
While speculative, the supposed causes seem to make sense to me:
1. music exposure. The more one hears a song, the more likely the song will get wedged in the cranium at some point. This is why I do not like "Glee:" they do a song on the show, and it is replayed a million times on the radio as the newest hit. Madonna was like that for a it might be Katy Perry or Lady GaGa. The only one I really remember getting stuck over and over in my head was Mendelsshon's Italian Symphony. I heard that every school day for three years at 9:15 in the evening during study hall.

2. Environment. This,too, seems obvious. Remember where you were when you heard "your" song with that special someone (or someones)? This happened to me just the other day as my sweetie and i were driving with the radio on, and "This guy's In Love With You" from back in the day came on. We actually BOTH started singing since it was "our" song...though I knew all the words and she knew the first couple of verses.

3. Stress. Odd how this might trigger a rewind, but Williamson indicates that it seems likely that we are more attuned to memory relapses during times of stress. Maybe it's something like a soothing mantra that we repeat when we want to calm down.

There is no know "cure" for this malfunction, though Williamson suggests thinking of another song and singing or humming it might do the trick. But, of course, you see the slippery slope in that suggestion: replacing one song with another is senseless. one point, I heard that the ONE SONG that would work but NOT get stuck in one's head as a replacement tune was the "Theme From Gilligan's Island." Why that one, I don't remember, but it seems to work for me on occasion.
So, the next time you get frustrated with recurring music, just sit right back and remember that fateful trip with Gilligan, the Skipper, too; the millionaire and his wife; the movie star, the Professor and Mary Ann, and you'll be rid of that earworm in no time.


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