Getting a song stuck in your head is no modern conundrum, with even Edgar Allan Poe complaining in 1845 that it is "quite a common thing" to be "annoyed" or even "tormented" by "the burthen of some ordinary song," reports the Los Angeles Times.
Now, researchers at the University of Reading report that the ordinary act of chewing gum might help alleviate said burden. They've recently published in the Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology that — at least among the 98 people they surveyed — the repetitive jaw motion behind gum chewing helped participants stop hearing the song they'd just listened to, giving them a 33 percent greater chance of getting it out of their heads.
There are many possible triggers of earworms, from one's emotional state to visual stimuli, notes Mashable. (Imagine seeing a yellow submarine, or a red door someone is painting black.) But chewing gum may reduce short-term memory, which in turn can lower one's recall of a song they recently heard.
"After playing them the catchy tunes 'Play Hard' by David Guetta and 'Payphone' by Maroon 5, we asked [participants] to try not to think of the songs they had just heard over the next three minutes, but to hit a key each time they did," the lead author wrote. Lo and behold, those who chewed gum reported hearing the song less than those with no activity or who just tapped their fingers.
(In related news, scientists even say they know the biggest earworm ever.)