Want to get rid of a nagging thought or the pesky lyrics you heard a week ago? Well, chew gum, advises a new study.
The phenomenon where you just cannot get out of your head a catchy song for days or even weeks is known as an earworm or brainworm. The effect has been studied before, but its cause, and how to get rid of it, is not known.
Now researchers say they have an answer - chewing gum after hearing a catchy song will help you think about it less often.
"Interfering with our own 'inner speech' through a more sophisticated version of the gum-chewing approach may work more widely," said lead researcher Phil Beaman from University of Reading.
In the study, 98 volunteers were played the 'catchy tunes' Play Hard by David Guetta and Payphone by Maroon 5. Over the next three minutes, they were then asked to hit a key every time they thought of the songs - while chewing gum, not chewing gum or tapping their finger, the Daily Mail reported.
While chewing gum, volunteers reported thinking of the song less often than when they were not chewing gum, or when they were told to tap their finger instead. And chewing gum also reduced the amount they 'heard' the song in their minds by a third.
The study is the first to examine the effects of chewing gum on earworms, and it suggests it could also be used to stop other unwanted or intrusive thoughts.
"However more research is needed to see whether this will help counter symptoms of obsessive-compulsive and similar disorders," Beaman said.
In a previous study by University of Reading in 2009, it was found that almost any song can become an earworm.