Kellaris, a marketing teacher who moonlights as a bouzouki player in a Greek band, theorizes that certain types of music operate like mental mosquito bites. They create a "cognitive itch" that can only be scratched by replaying the tune in the mind. The more the brain scratches, the worse the itch gets. The syndrome is triggered when "the brain detects an incongruity or something 'exceptional' in the musical stimulus," he explained in a report made earlier this year to the Society for Consumer Psychology.
The fact that the researcher in question is a marketing teacher, and working in "consumer psychology", is slightly worrying, making one wonder exactly how the research is going to be used. (See Egan, Greg, Beyond the Whistle Test.)
A classic example is "If You're Happy and You Know It," he says. The melody in each verse builds sequentially from the previous verse... With each "happy and you know it" line, the melody changes slightly, "but in a predictable way," he says. "It's the same pattern, which makes it more memorable."
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