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Q J Exp Psychol (Hove). 2015;68(6):1049-57. doi: 10.1080/17470218.2015.1034142. Epub 2015 Apr 21.

Want to block earworms from conscious awareness? B(u)y gum!

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a Centre for Cognition Research , University of Reading , Reading , UK.


Three experiments examine the role of articulatory motor planning in experiencing an involuntary musical recollection (an "earworm"). Experiment 1 shows that interfering with articulatory motor programming by chewing gum reduces both the number of voluntary and the number of involuntary-unwanted-musical thoughts. This is consistent with other findings that chewing gum interferes with voluntary processes such as recollections from verbal memory, the interpretation of ambiguous auditory images, and the scanning of familiar melodies, but is not predicted by theories of thought suppression, which assume that suppression is made more difficult by concurrent tasks or cognitive loads. Experiment 2 shows that chewing the gum affects the experience of "hearing" the music and cannot be ascribed to a general effect on thinking about a tune only in abstract terms. Experiment 3 confirms that the reduction of musical recollections by chewing gum is not the consequence of a general attentional or dual-task demand. The data support a link between articulatory motor programming and the appearance in consciousness of both voluntary and unwanted musical recollections.


Auditory imagery; Earworms; Music cognition; Short-term memory; Thought suppression

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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