It’s crazy to think that something as simple as chewing gum could help improve testing scores. How could this happen though? Pre-research, I’m guessing it has something to do with the mindless chewing stimulation, which allows the brain to give the studying more attention. Obviously, this hypothesis is based on zero evidence and is just a shot in the dark.
In Alyson Fox’s article, she refers to a study that was published by the Appetite. The study found that students who chewed gum before the test did better than those who did not. The same study found that chewing the gum before the test improved a lot of brain functions, including types of memory, quickness of thought and “cognitive functioning”. “Cognitive functions” are essentially any exertions of the brain that lead to the comprehension of information (Cereboost par. 1). Fox later explains that the beneficial effects of chewing gum were short lived; the effects only lasted for about 20 minutes into the tests. No effect was noticed when gum was chewed throughout the test. The actual statistics of the study showed that non-gum chewers remembered as little as half as much as the gum chewers remembered. Fox claims that one theory as to why chewing gum enhances cognitive functions is that the chewing of gum increases the awareness of the individual. The reason the awareness fades after 20 minutes is because the person stopped chewing. One flaw in this theory that I noticed is that if gum chewing raises one’s awareness, why wouldn’t it raise their awareness during the examinations distributed in the experiment?
In 2011, Jonah Lehrer published an article titled “The Cognitive Benefits of Chewing Gum.” His first point is that chewing gum is a very strange business, which is reasonable because gum provides no nutrients and seems like a waste of jaw movements. Lehrer alludes to a study that took place at St. Lawrence University. The link that he provided to the study shows a study very similar to the one that Fox wrote about. Both studies had students chew gum before taking a test and both tests furnished the same results. In Lehrer’s article, the study is explained in much more detail, but the detail is pointless because the experiment resulted in the same manner. Lehrer questions whether the enhancement in cognitive functions could be due to the glucose in the gum, but quickly dispels the theory saying that gum without glucose provided the same boost in cognitive functions. Here Lehrer offers the researchers’ hypothesis, which was similar to Fox’s. The hypothesis predicts that the boost in cognitive functions is because the actual act of gum chewing awakens the chewer, allowing he/she to focus more on the task at hand.
One study done by the scientists at Coventry University actually supports Lehrer’s hypothesis. The study concerned the effects of chewing gum on one’s awareness and tiredness. The study found that chewing gum allows an individual to remain less sleepy and retain their measure of awareness. This study also cannot provide a definite mechanism for why gum has such an effect on an individual, but the hypothesize that it is because of the flavor of the gum.
So, chewing gum actually does help one’s performance on exams. Although the mechanism is unclear as to how it does so, it can’t hurt to give it a shot. Also, who doesn’t like to chew gum and blow the occasional bubble?