Chewing Gum Improves Test Scores

“Chewing gum helps your memory, and in turn helps you receive higher test scores.” By this logic Violet Beauregarde should have been a member of Mensa.

A recent experiment into the effect of chewing gum on students shows just why this could be a real study aid. Being a student myself, I will do anything to increase my chances of scoring higher on tests; if chewing gum is the way to go, then sign me up for a lifetime supply of Juicy Fruit.

According to a study conducted by Professor Onyper in the scientific journal Appetite, chewing gum before taking tests can enable you to perform significantly better than you would have without gum. Researchers tested 224 undergraduates from St. Lawrence University, dividing them into three groups. One group chewed gum before and during the test, another chewed gum for five minutes before being tested, and a third didn’t chew anything. The researchers then gave them a multitude of tests to determine their performance.

The students who chewed gum before taking the tests did better for a short period of time than those who did not chew gum. Their improvement was strongest right after gum-chewing, before dropping to normal levels after an average of 20 minutes.

So while the study found that chewing gum led to an overall increase in cognitive functioning, particularly working memory, Onyper stated that the recall of the gum-chewing group was “statistically significant”; however, it only “amounts to a difference of two-to-three words” in practical terms.

Additionally, the effects of the gum only lasted for the first 20 minutes and during the second half of the test, the gum chewers did not have a cognitive advantage over the non-gum chewers.

The improvements caused by chewing gum might be small in the long-run, but it still may be worth popping in a strip before a test. To emphasize, chewing gum during the testing did not show any improvements in performance. This may be due to the motion of gum chewing causing extra strain on the brain, and taking away from the brain’s ability to test well.

More research is needed to determine the exact reasons for the effects of gum on performance as scientists have some theories, but nothing substantial. Some theorised that the increase in glucose was a factor, but this idea has since been debunked, as sugar-free gum generated the same benefits. Another theory suggests chewing leads to an increase in mastication-induced arousal; this is when the act of chewing arouses the brain to get an increased amount of blood (and consequently glucose) flowing, ensuring a heightened level of alertness. Chewing gum is known to increase heart rate and blood pressure, which also results in sending more blood to the brain, both of these could be causes of increased brain power.

Scientists at Coventry University also found that people chewing mint gum showed a dramatic decrease in feelings of sleepiness. The participants were shown to be less exhausted when chewing gum (assessed by the Pupillographic Sleepiness Test which uses the oscillations of the pupils as a metric of tiredness) and so this could lead to them testing better, if only for a short amount of time while others who are not as alert slowly wake up.

All these theories seem quite probable but which do you believe are most likely? Do you have any experience with taking tests and chewing gum? Or is it all just subjective?


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