I was having brunch with a friend last weekend, and somewhere in the background that day I heard “Mirror Man” by Human League. It’s not my favorite Human League song (although it is in my library), but it promptly got stuck in my head. This earworm lasted about five days, and it even kept me up one night. I am not exactly sure when or how it ended, and I’m afraid to think too much about it for fear of it recurring. The odd thing is, I can’t even remember the exact snippet now, a handful of days later.
Research points to earworms being a result of some kind of interruption of the task completion mechanism our brains use to manage working memory. I happened upon this video which does a nice job with the subject:
I’d been working mostly on legal documents at the time, and my sneaking suspicion is that it ended when I got back around to coding. I’ve tried things like looking up the lyrics and playing the song on repeat for as long as it takes, which makes sense given some of the ideas in the video, but it didn’t work this time. My hypothesis is that the song got linked to some other task, perhaps the coding task that was on my mind; the earworm was more a parasite of the task on my mind than my mind itself, and it didn’t die until the host task was completed. Given the vicious nature of my last earworm, I am looking forward to putting some of remedies suggested in the video to the test next time.
Sometimes, I hate my brain.
At your own risk …