Why do we get addicted to a song for a short period of time?

Talking to several people about this made me think that I am not alone in this. So, I decided to ask this question here.

There are songs which I used to listen to approximately more than 20 times a day. I did it over a period of 2 weeks. After 2 weeks, I realized I was not into that song that much. I still listen to them every now and then but it is definitely not as often as I used to. I remember I used to get “depressed” (or "moody) if I don’t listen to that song that often.

I am curios about what triggers this behavior. It’s like smoking cigarette but it isn’t.

I think this is an excellent question. I suggest you “ask Cecil”! (link from Straight Dope home page)

It’s not just humans who have this behavior–whales do as well! In a recent episode of “Nova Wonders”, one segment was about how new songs become popular and move throughout the different whale communities.


The whales near Australia come up with new songs that migrate westward. The songs are popular for a while and then get replaced by others. It seems similar to how humans intensely like songs for a short while.

If you can answer why we like any sort of music at all, there’s probably some huge scientific prize out there for you. Currently, we have some vague theories, but we don’t really understand why we like music. Brain activation studies have shown that music triggers emotional-type responses in our brains, releasing dopamine and other chemicals, and activating some of the same parts of our brains that get activated during sex and when we eat food that we think tastes really good.

That is about as far as our understanding of it goes, though. We know a bit about what happens, but we don’t know why. One possibility is that the emotional response came out of our instinct for survival, so for example a loud noise can trigger a fear response and sound “scary”. The pleasure side of it may just be an accidental side effect of having sounds trigger an emotional response.

Constantly triggering the same parts of your brain will cause your brain to grow tired of that stimulus, dulling the brain’s reaction over time. This happens with all kinds of things, not just music. The emotional response gets weaker and weaker, and eventually you get tired of the song and you try to find a new song that will trigger your pleasure response.

There’s still a lot involved here that we don’t understand.

After you’ve heard a piece of music a few times, your mind can “predict” what comes next, you anticipate the music in your head. If you dislike the music, that can make it like a dentist’s drill, but when you like it, it’s very pleasant.

Once you’ve heard the music so often that you can play it in your head as easily as cueing it up on your iPod, it loses some of that impact, but that period when your anticipations are like a rough diagram and the real music fills it in for you in color, that’s wonderful.

But if your put a particular well liked song away for months or even years, its very possible for it to regain some of its positive impact on your brain.

This is the holy grail for song writers, to create a riff that the brain wants to continue hearing again and again, which is what makes a hit record. And being a hit tune means it has stuck in the brain of many, many people at more or less the same time. Of course, I cannot answer the question of “why” that the OP poses.