Chewing Gum Increases Alertness

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Study participants who chewed gum during a laboratory exercise focused and remembered number sequences better than non-gum chewers, reports Amy Kraft on the website of Scientific American:

“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 group 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 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.” (Read more here.)

I checked out the study itself (“Chewing Gum Moderates the Vigilance Decrement,” in the British Journal of Psychology), and interestingly, it explains that participants’ performance started out strong but declined as their alertness faded. Chewing gum, however, prevented this decrease in alertness. (Read an abstract here.)

So, should teachers allow their students to chew gum—at least at exam-taking time?

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