60-Second Science

Gum Chewing May Improve Concentration

Volunteers who chewed gum during an exercise focused and remembered number sequences better than non-gum chewers. Amy Kraft reports

Teachers might want to think twice about posting no gum-chewing signs in the classroom. It turns out that the sticky substance might help students concentrate.

Researchers had two groups of 20 people each listen to a 30-minute recording that included a sequence of numbers. After listening, the participants were asked to remember the sequence. But only one groups chewed gum—and they had higher accuracy rates and faster reaction times than the non-gum chewers. Those chewing gum also maintained focus longer during the exercise. The study is in the British Journal of Psychology—and contradicts a 2012 study that found gum chewing decreased short-term memory performance. [Kate Morgan, Andrew J. Johnson and Christopher Miles, Chewing gum moderates the vigilance decrement]

The researchers say that gum increases the flow of oxygen to regions of the brain responsible for attention. More oxygen can keep people alert and improve their reflexes. Research also shows that you won’t get the same effect by just pretending to chew gum.

So the next time your mind is wandering in class, maybe try some gum. If it doesn’t help you concentrate you’ll at least be asked to leave.

—Amy Kraft

[The above text is a transcript of this podcast.]


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