Earworms (or sometimes referred as sticky tunes, involuntary musical imagery, stuck songs) is a phenomenon that many people experience in their daily lives.

Although several studies suggest that they do not last more than several days, there is a case where the song was stuck in a man's head for over 33 years.

It seems to be ethically problematic to test which songs create earworms, because the melodies may be stuck in participants' heads, even if they knew about the aim and possible consequences of the study.

Is there any way to test which songs create earworms without any ethical troubles? I can only think of doing a descriptive research, asking "Do you know this song? How sticky is this song?" but making conclusions from this data would be quite difficult.

Or maybe I should add this question: Since mostly earworms last for a few days, it is not probable that the participant will have an earworm that negatively affects his/her life. So, can I do an experiment about earworms since an ethical problem is highly unlikely?

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Have you examined the literature on this (e.g., this paper and studies that cite it)? It should provide clues about appropriate experimental methods. $\endgroup$
    – mrt
    Dec 11, 2016 at 8:12


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