Where do those songs stuck in your head come from? Everywhere.

Even something as tuneless as reading a psychology research paper can get a song stuck in your head. In my case, it was “Mistaken for Strangers” by The National, which has a quirky drumbeat that is particularly sticky. It’s like, bum BUM bumbum badabum, bum BUM bumbum badabum. And so on, you get the idea.

Ok, this particular paper is about getting songs stuck in your head, so while it may be ironic, it wasn’t completely counterintuitive that it would happen to me while reading it (the song is mentioned in the study).

But the research in question, which sought to classify the circumstances that lodge little tunes in our brains — Involuntary Musical Imagery, INMI, or just “earworms” — found that the set of contributing factors are more varied and complex than you might think. Earworms are ubiquitous, and the circumstances associated with them run the gamut from banal to mathematic to profound.

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