Use of the English translation was popularized by James Kellaris, a marketing researcher at the University of Cincinnati, and American cognitive psychologist Daniel Levitin. Kellaris' studies demonstrated that different people have varying susceptibilities to earworms, but that almost everybody has been afflicted with one at some time or another.
The psychoanalyst Theodor Reik used the term haunting melody to describe the psychodynamic features of the phenomenon. The term Musical Imagery Repetition (MIR) was suggested by neuroscientist and pianist Sean Bennett in 2003 in a scientifically researched profile of the phenomenon. Another scientific term for the phenomenon, involuntary musical imagery, or INMI, was suggested by the neurologist Oliver Sacks in 2007.
"Last Song Syndrome" (also known as LSS) is most widely known as a Filipino term.
According to research by James Kellaris, 98% of individuals experience earworms. Women and men experience the phenomenon equally often, but earworms are more likely to last longer for women and to irritate women more than they irritate men.
In popular culture
Mark Twain's 1876 story "A Literary Nightmare" (also known as "Punch, Brothers, Punch") is about an earworm which you can get rid of only by transferring it to another person.
In Arthur C. Clarke's 1956 science fiction short story, "The Ultimate Melody", a scientist, Gilbert Lister, develops the ultimate melody - one that so compels the brain that its listener becomes completely and forever enraptured by it. As the storyteller, Harry Purvis, explains, Lister theorized that a great melody "made its impression on the mind because it fitted in with the fundamental electrical rhythms going on in the brain". Lister attempts to abstract from the hit tunes of the day to a melody which fits in so well with the electrical rhythms that it dominates them completely. He succeeds, and is found in a catatonia from which he never awakens.
In Fritz Leiber's Hugo Award-nominated short story "Rump-Titty-Titty-Tum-TAH-Tee" (1959), the title describes an earworm so powerful that it rapidly spreads to, and takes over, all areas of human culture, until a counter-rhythm is developed which acts as an antidote.
In an episode of Spongebob Squarepants, Spongebob has a song stuck in his head that interrupts his day until Sandy Cheeks tries to find a way to get the worm out of his head. Sandy says "someone with musical talent" can cure him (in this case, Squidward). Squidward starts playing his clarinet. The earworm gets annoyed and leaves. Squidward is then shown in bed, praising himself. The earworm comes and goes into Squidward, and now Squidward has the earworm (with his song, not Spongebob's).
In language learning
Earworm-type music is sometimes used in language learning to help memory retention on foreign words.
- ^ Untranslatable Words, The Whole Earth Review by Howard Rheingold, 1987
- ^ James J. Kellaris, "Identifying Properties of Tunes That Get ‘Stuck in Your Head", Proceedings of the Society for Consumer Psychology, Winter 2001 Conference, Scottsdale, AZ, American Psychological Society, pp. 66-67
- ^ Reik, Theodor (1960): The Haunting Melody: Psychoanalytic Experiences in Life and Music. . Grove Press, New York.
- ^ Sean Bennett, Musical Imagery Repetition, Cambridge University Master Thesis
- ^ Oliver Sacks, Musicophilia, New York: Alfred A. Knopf (October 16, 2007), ISBN 1400040817
- ^ Urban Dictionary, "Urban Dictionary: headsong", April 4, 2009
- ^ Creative Heroes, The Definitive Guide To Earworms, 2010
- ^ "The Straight Dope: Why do songs get stuck in your head?"
- ^ Daniel J. Levitin, This is your brain on music, Dutton Adult (August 3, 2006), ISBN 0525949690
- ^ Summary of "The Ultimate Memory" at the website of aleph
- "Can't get it out of my head" by Vadim Prokhorov (22 June 2006). Guardian.co.uk
- "World of INMI research" by Lassi A. Liikkanen (retrieved 27 August 2009)
- Earwurm.com. A tool for online sharing of earworms.
- Jeremy Dean (2010, May). "Earworms: Can They Be Killed?" PsyBlog.
- Earwormsmobile.com. Using earworms to learn a foreign language
- Earworms in TV and pop culture at TV Tropes.com
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