Science has an antidote for 'Uptown Funk' and other persistent earworms

At last, there's a scientifically proven way to get that song out of your head, but you'll want to make sure you're done eating first.

Eric Mack Contributing Editor
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Eric Mack
2 min read

Grab some Bubble Yum to get Bruno out your head. Harper Smith

Be honest, how much of your brain's energy has been devoted to putting " Uptown Funk" on a constant loop over the past few months? If you've been tortured, and have in turn tortured those close to you, with this or another earworm recently, science finally has a way to help, and it's much more simple and surprising than you might think.

The problem is that you aren't chewing enough gum. No, seriously.

New research, published in The Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, has found that participants who chewed gum after listening to a catchy song "heard" that song in their heads as much as a third less than other participants.

"The earworm phenomenon stretches back at least to the 19th century -- Edgar Allan Poe and Mark Twain both referenced the experience in well-known works," the University of Reading's Dr. Phil Beaman, who led the study, said in a release. "The majority of us experience them for only short periods -- perhaps just a few minutes -- but others can experience them for two or three days, which can be extremely frustrating and debilitating. We wanted to explore whether a simple act like chewing gum could help."

In the study, 98 volunteers were subjected to "Play Hard" by David Guetta and "Payphone" by Maroon 5 and then, for the following three minutes, they were to try not to think about the song (but report how many times they "heard" the song involuntarily). Those who chewed gum were less affected by the earworm than those who weren't given an activity and those who were asked to tap their fingers during the three minutes after hearing a song.

Previous research has found that jaw movements can impact short-term memory and imagining sounds. And believe it or not, there's a growing body of evidence around earworms, including studies in 2009 and 2012 that found that practically any song can become an earworm and that the songs that get lodged in our head tend to be a very individualized experience. But this is the first study to specifically link chewing gum to earworms.

Now you know the truth. Always carry an emergency pack of gum if you want to prevent the Uptown from funking you up. That's right. I said Uptown, funk you up / I said uptown funk you up.

Lord help me, where's my Juicy Fruit?