It’s the time of year when seemingly innocent jingles tunnel into my brain. Right now I’m haunted by Ariana Grande’s “Santa Tell Me,” which I heard for the first time while researching this article. Help me.
There may be good reasons why a song like that becomes an earworm, according to Elizabeth Margulis, director of the music cognition lab at the University of Arkansas. Like déjà vu, you might feel like you know the tune, but something throws you off. “[There’s] this idea that songs that tend to get stuck are conventional in some ways but also have some little surprising twist,” she says.
The latest evidence comes from a study published last month in the journal Psychology of Aesthetics, Creativity, and the Arts. The researchers broke down the anatomy of an earworm tune and started looking for melodic features that may lead to compulsive looping. “This was really the first study into this area of melodic features of earworms,” says lead author Kelly Jakubowski, a music psychologist at Durham University. “We focused on the pitch and rhythmic elements of a melody.” To read more from ANGUS CHEN, click here.