Woman listens to music

Kelly Jakubowski's fascinating research on the phenomenon of "earworms" was highlighted on CNN and other news outlets.

Conservatory alumna Studies "Earworms" (Songs you can't get out of your head)

December 20, 2016

Woman listens to music

Kelly JakubowskiConservatory of Music graduate Kelly Jakubowski is conducting fascinating research on "earworms" (songs that get stuck in your head) as a music psychologist at Durham University in the United Kingdom. Her most recent study of the phenomenon was published in the journal Psychology of Aesthetics, Creativity and the Arts and featured on CNN and other news outlets.

In Dissecting an Earworm: Melodic Features and Song Popularity Predict Involuntary Musical Imagery, Jakubowski, who admits to frequent bouts of earworms herself, identified three main reasons why they occur: the tempo, the shape of the melody and unusual interval patterns that make a song stick in our brains.

"These three factors stood out above the rest ... (the songs) need to be not too simple and not too complex," Jakubowski said. "None of these have been revealed in previous research." 

Lady Gaga Tops the Top Ten Earworms

Jakubowski earned a Bachelor of Music degree in violin performance and music theory from Baldwin Wallace Conservatory of Music and went on to pursue graduate studies in violin and music theory at the Ohio State University and in music psychology at Goldsmiths, University of London, earning an M.Sc.(with distinction) in Music, Mind and Brain. She is currently pursuing a Ph.D. in psychology at Goldsmiths. In addition to earworms, her research interests include absolute pitch, melodic memory, and music and emotion.

A Lady Gaga song leads the list of “Top 10 Earworms” Jakubowski and her team encountered in her research. Check out the full list at The Conversation.