Understanding earworms isn’t just about identifying catchy songs, it’s harnessing a small window into the mind. If we better understand why and how some songs stick in particular brains, not only do we better understand memory and help patients live better lives, but we possibly can improve memory, mood and marketing (if that’s what you’re into) said Dr. Jakubowski

I think it means opening your mind into new realities, or equipping your mind with a window, but I'm not sure because it's not something that can be found in dictionaries.

What does "harnessing a small window into the mind" mean?

  • harness: to get control of something in order to use it for a particular purpose (Macmillan).
    – choster
    Feb 8, 2017 at 15:28
  • Incidentally, the answers given are correct, but this is a terribly mixed metaphor. A harness is a piece of a equipment for a horse that allows the horse to pull a wagon or plow, and as a verb it mean to put that equipment on the horse. Metaphorically, it means "put to use". "Window into" is a terribly clichéd metaphor meaning "something allowing insight into". But a horse is not a window, you cannot harness a window, and a horse does not give you insight. As you learn English, learn to write it better than this. Apr 17, 2017 at 5:22

2 Answers 2


to harness means to make use of something that's typically very hard to make use of (our civilization, for example, has harnessed the electrical phenomena to make our lives better). The idea here is that the way the human mind works is still poorly understood even though scientists have been studying it for centuries now trying to understand how it really works.

So, at this point in time, the human mind is still a mystery to us, but we do know, though very little, something about it. For example, we all know that rote repetition aids retention—the longer you repeat or are exposed to something, the easier it becomes to retain it in your memory. That's one fact.

The other fact about the mind is that when sometimes you hear one of those catchy tunes, the lyrics tend to stick momentarily even without long exposure to the song. We all know that happens. So, what they're talking about here is that we can take advantage of this phenomenon and put that to good use—learning foreign languages, for example. Although we still don't understand how the mind works, this method offers us a small window into the human mind so that we can try and improve our ability to learn vocabulary and phrases as well as retain all that information.


It's used here in to mean "putting to use", as in harnessing a horse to a cart, and is referring to the hope that understanding the way the songs 'stick' in the mind will provide a way to expand the understanding of how memory works in general.

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