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Why Songs Get Stuck In Your Head, And The Simple Trick To Make Them Go Away

OfficialPsy - YouTube / Nueva Prensa

Call it whatever you like - sticky music, earworms, a stuck song, or just plain annoying.

If you're one of the 90% of people who regularly deal with them, you've probably already experienced one this week.

Sadly, I'm one of the 30% who have it even worse, because I can't make it through a single day without a song repeating in my head.

Whether it's an old classic, or the last thing I heard on the radio, listening to the music repeat over and over can be seriously irritating.

Because this temporary condition, called "involuntary musical imagery" by scientists, is so common, lots of studies have tried to explain exactly why it happens.

Researchers say "YMCA" gets stuck in your brain very easily.CBS Music

No surprise here, but songs with repetitive, catchy melodies are the hardest to forget.

Classics like "YMCA," "Jingle Bells," and "We Will Rock You" all made the University of St. Andrews's list of stickiest songs.

Recognizability and familiarity also make songs "catch" in your brain, which is why recent radio hits seem to infect the entire country all at once.

Then again, really sticky tunes like "The Song That Doesn't End" have a habit of jumping out of nowhere and lodging in your brain for days. Is it on repeat in your mind yet?

If you've caught an earworm today and it won't leave you alone, we have expert advice to shake it for good.

The key to understanding why songs stick in our brain in the first place might be the "Zeigarnik effect."

This psychological phrase is easier to understand than it sounds.

Ever notice that it's easier to remember your work in progress than something you finished hours ago? That's the Zeigarnik effect at work.

The way a waiter remembers open orders, but not closed ones, is a case of the Zeigarnik effect.Serve Chilled / Flickr

One of the best "cures" for stuck songs is to finish them, so your brain will finally move on. Listen to the entire song from start to finish, or imagine the end of the song, instead of the chorus.

Other studies found that focusing on a distracting job - like reading a book, or solving a crossword puzzle - will do the trick.

Then again, a survey from 2010 found the harder people tried to cure an earworm, the longer is stuck around.

Good luck!

Is there a certain song that always gets stuck in your head?

[H/T: Time, BBC, LiveScience]

I write about all sorts of things for Shared, especially weird facts, celebrity news, and viral stories. CONTACT: zachary@shared.com