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Earworms meet Big Data (on Twitter)

Back in 2008, Dr. Lassi A. Liikkanen [pictured] of the Helsinki Institute for Information Technology (HIIT), University of Helsinki, Finland performed a formal scientific study to investigate INvoluntary Musical Imagery (INMI), a phenomenon more commonly known as an Earworm. Now Dr Liikkanen, along with Kelly Jakubowski and Jukka M. Toivanen have for the first time extended the study of earworms into Big Data territory, using Twitter. Notwithstanding the fact that less than 1 in every 100,000 tweets reference earworms, over a period of six months the investigators sifted through 80,620 earworm-related tweets originating from more than 173 countries. Finding that, in general, twitterers don’t much care for earworms.

“We uncovered evidence that the earworm experience is a widespread psychological phenomenon reported in locations throughout the globe. We found that users openly discuss the types of music that they experience as earworms and potential causes and cures for these via their Twitter network. Finally, we discovered that people discuss INMI in more negative emotional terms on Twitter than other topics, including music in general.”

See: ‘Catching Earworms on Twitter: Using Big Data to Study Involuntary Musical Imagery’ in: Music Perception: An Interdisciplinary Journal, Vol. 33 No. 2 (pp. 199-216) 2015

Note for earworm sufferers: Recent work by Victoria J. Williamson et al. draws attention to the possibilities of ‘Cure Tunes’ – citing as an example, ‘Kashmir’ by Led Zeppelin.

[Disclaimer. Improbable cannot independently verify or assure that the so-called ‘Cure Tune’ may not itself initiate INMI in some listeners]

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