Chew Gum to Kill That Earworm? An item commonly found in vending machines could get that annoying song out of your head, suggests new research from the United Kingdom’s University of Reading. Chewing gum may reduce or remove hard-to-shake “earworms”—catchy songs that repeat again and again and again in your head—and possibly even broader unwanted, intrusive ... Research in Brief
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Research in Brief  |   July 01, 2015
Chew Gum to Kill That Earworm?
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Swallowing, Dysphagia & Feeding Disorders / Research in Brief
Research in Brief   |   July 01, 2015
Chew Gum to Kill That Earworm?
The ASHA Leader, July 2015, Vol. 20, 15. doi:10.1044/leader.RIB2.20072015.15
The ASHA Leader, July 2015, Vol. 20, 15. doi:10.1044/leader.RIB2.20072015.15
An item commonly found in vending machines could get that annoying song out of your head, suggests new research from the United Kingdom’s University of Reading.
Chewing gum may reduce or remove hard-to-shake “earworms”—catchy songs that repeat again and again and again in your head—and possibly even broader unwanted, intrusive thoughts, according to the study, led by Philip Beaman of the university’s School of Psychology and Clinical Language Sciences.
“The majority of us experience [earworms] 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,” Beaman says. “We wanted to explore whether a simple act like chewing gum could help.”
Previous research has found that jaw movement, whether it’s through mouthing words to yourself or simply moving the jaw around, interferes with short-term memory and imagined sounds. This study, published in the Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, looks specifically at the relationship between chewing gum and earworms.
The researchers played two songs for 98 participants —“Play Hard” by David Guetta and “Payphone” by Maroon 5—before asking them to try not to think of the songs for three minutes.
Participants pressed a key each time the song came to mind. Those who were chewing gum reported “hearing” the song less often than control groups with no activity or simple finger-tapping.
“Interfering with our own ‘inner speech’ through a more sophisticated version of the gum-chewing approach may work more widely,” Beaman says, adding that future research should determine if it could ease symptoms of obsessive-compulsive disorder and similar conditions.
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July 2015
Volume 20, Issue 7