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The Science Behind That Song Stuck In Your Head

However mysterious, lots of science has been devoted to earworms. Although a cure is hard to come by, scientists definitely know how a catchy song is created. Once you're in on the secret, try your hand at creating your own jingle for Zag Bank!

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1. It's called Involuntary Musical Imagery, technically.

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Popularly referred to as "earworms," INMIs are little segments of music, most often under 10 seconds, that repeat on a loop in our minds. An INMI is a ubiquitous cognitive phenomenon.

2. Earworms have most likely been a plague on humankind for...ever.

For most of the 200,000 years of modern human evolution, we've transmitted facts and processes through spoken or sung words. So, most scientists believe our brains have become hardwired to encode spoken and sung information. Unfortunately, we can't always choose what we recall.
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For most of the 200,000 years of modern human evolution, we've transmitted facts and processes through spoken or sung words. So, most scientists believe our brains have become hardwired to encode spoken and sung information. Unfortunately, we can't always choose what we recall.

3. And they have minds of their own.

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Earworms pop up when you least expect them. You can't summon them up at will, and you can't pick which ones decide to burrow into your brain.

4. Most earworms are super simple...

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The tunes that stick in our heads most are simple, repetitive, and have some mild incongruity.

5. ...and totally predictable.

A good earworm is one that you can anticipate. A person can simply hum or sing a millisecond of an earworm-worthy song, and our brains can take it from there. Also, fun fact: 90% of the music we listen to, we've heard before.
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A good earworm is one that you can anticipate. A person can simply hum or sing a millisecond of an earworm-worthy song, and our brains can take it from there. Also, fun fact: 90% of the music we listen to, we've heard before.

6. Novelty is key too, though.

Built-in predictability is important, but there's got to be something, however small, that's unique about the tune.
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Built-in predictability is important, but there's got to be something, however small, that's unique about the tune.

7. There’s a secret recipe, basically.

8. They affect the motor cortex of your brain.

When you listen to music, there's a lot of activity in your motor planning regions. Basically, this part of your brain is in action (or in this case, singing along with the song) even when you're not.
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When you listen to music, there's a lot of activity in your motor planning regions. Basically, this part of your brain is in action (or in this case, singing along with the song) even when you're not.

9. Neurotic and obsessive personalities are more susceptible.

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Earworms love you guys.

10. Musicians are too.

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Studies suggest that people who play or sing music are more likely to get tunes stuck in their heads.

11. Earworms are most likely to strike when your brain is idle.

For instance: waiting in line.
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For instance: waiting in line.

12. 91% of people have an earworm once a week.

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25% have them more than once a day. Send them some positive vibes.

13. In fact, it actually interferes seriously in the lives of some victims.

A neuroscientist named Steven Brown is one such victim. He describes the phenomenon as always-present music in his consciousness.
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A neuroscientist named Steven Brown is one such victim. He describes the phenomenon as always-present music in his consciousness.

14. But the majority of reported earworms are actually enjoyable.

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Only 30% of earworms are reported as being annoying.

Within a controlled environment, researchers find that participants aren't bothered by the music in their minds at all.

Feeling inspired to create your own addictive tune? Try your hand at creating a new jingle for Canada's innovative direct banking solution, Zag Bank!