Is Chewing Gum A Life Hack?

Similar to my last blog post, I originally had no idea what to write for this blog post. I stared at my computer and became highly frustrated. To fight off my exhaustion and lack of focus, I decided to take a second and chew on a piece of gum. After chewing on a piece of Wrigley’s Extra Long-Lasting Flavor Peppermint gum, I, all of a sudden, got an idea. Since I was chewing gum, I figured that I would research and talk about how chewing gum affects cognitive processes. I understand that it may have influence in numerous cognitive processes, and that it may take forever to talk about, but I only wanted to mention maybe one or two things in regard to cognition. Before I get to the main topics of this blog post, I’d like to ask readers a question. Have any of you ever been recommended to chew gum before an event that made you extremely nervous? If so, has it ever helped you cognitively?

For as long as I can remember, I’ve always struggled with test anxiety. With my test anxiety came my lack of focus and lack of memorization. Every time my teachers and/or professors would tell me that I had a test that was fast approaching, I would stress and become highly anxious. In relation to that, I would also lose sleep, not eat, over-study, and essentially lose my mind. I know, it sounds dramatic… Nonetheless, I would always have a lot of problems before the day of a test, and I would lack focus and memory while taking it. One day, I remember getting ready to go and take my test in Statistics. I made sure to eat well, sleep well, study decently, and make sure that I had somewhat of a firm understanding of the material being tested on. When given the test, I immediately forgot everything and had a really tough time focusing.

While taking the test, I was thinking about all of the “what-ifs”. What if I failed this test? What if I failed the course? What if I didn’t graduate? I know, I’m dramatic… Anyways, before taking the test, I remember asking my friend if she had any tips in regard to me focusing and, essentially, doing well on the test. She claimed that chewing gum would help me focus more and get my ideas flowing. I didn’t think it would help, but I tried it anyways. Once I started chewing a piece of gum and continuing the test, I realized that I became slightly more focused than usual and remembered a lot more material. Fortunately, I managed to pass with a good grade. So, with my experience in mind, does chewing gum in fact help with focus and memory?

Bored One Punch Man GIF

According to a study in 2009 by Wang et. al., chewing gum can “facilitate the process of working memory by enhancing the neural activity in memory and attention-related brain areas” (Wang et. al., 2009). In addition, chewing gum “during stress increased brain activity in [the] amygdala, hippocampus and insula compared to stress alone” (Wang et. al., 2009). In other words, these researchers found evidence to support the idea that chewing gum can influence working memory and attention. Although this is a study that supports such a claim, it doesn’t necessarily mean that the claim is fully supported throughout other studies made by researchers. Based on other studies, this study in particular can either be supported or not.

One study in particular that goes against the idea of memory being impacted by chewing gum is a study done by psychologist, Andrew Smith in 2009. Essentially, he found that “no significant effects of chewing gum were observed in… memory tasks” (Smith, 2009). However, he also discovered that “chewing gum increases alertness” (Smith, 2009). So, with that being said, does this apply to my experience with chewing gum and testing? I managed to focus more and remember more, but did chewing gum actually have an effect on my cognitive processing or was it an external factor? All-in-all, there are numerous studies with various results in regard to the idea of chewing gum impacting memory and focus. In order to fully find an answer to the question of whether chewing gum impacts memory and focus, more research needs to be done. With that being said, do you think that chewing gum can impact your memory and focus?

Opm GIF

Overall, this concept of chewing gum impacting memory and focus relates to two topics that were discussed in class. If you’re not sure what the two topics are, the two topics are obviously working memory and attention. Based on the notes and lectures given in my class, memory essentially refers to a brain function where data or information is encoded, stored, and retrieved when needed. This applies to my testing experience because I believed that chewing gum allowed me to go through my memory and retrieve data that was needed to complete my test. Besides memory, attention, which was technically the other topic discussed in this blog post, refers to “the processes we use to monitor incoming events” (Robinson-Riegler & Robinson-Riegler, 2017, ch. 3). This applies to my testing experience because I was, at first, having trouble processing the questions given on the test I was taking. When chewing gum, I was therefore able to better process the questions being asked on the test and somehow manage to answer them. Although evidence varies based on studies on chewing gum in relation to memory and attention, I believe that chewing gum could potentially be a life hack not only based on my personal experience but based on various cognitive research.

Image result for one punch man thinking gif

References

[Image 1]: https://monkey-network.tumblr.com/post/185116290758/honestly-one-punch-man-season-2-is-the-most.

[Image 2]: https://giphy.com/gifs/one-punch-man-6IkjQmpaRwIabJ2G3C.

[Image 3]: https://giphy.com/gifs/opm-JoMYZauwFmy8E.

[Image 4]: https://tenor.com/view/saitama-one-punch-man-huh-what-confused-gif-13951206.

Wang, X., Gitelman, D., & Parrish, T. (2009). Effects of chewing gum on working memory and stress. Neuroimage, 47(1), S145. https://doi-org.umw.idm.oclc.org/10.1016/S1053-8119(09)71460-0.

Smith, A. (2009). Effects of chewing gum on mood, learning, memory and performance of an intelligence test. Nutritional Neuroscience12(2), 81–88. https://doi-org.umw.idm.oclc.org/10.1179/147683009X423247.

Robinson-Riegler & Robinson Riegler. Cognitive Psychology: Applying the Science of the Mind. Pearson, 2017. ISBN: 9780134003405.

2 thoughts on “Is Chewing Gum A Life Hack?

  1. maggierush

    This was a really fun read for me! I really enjoy your real tone when writing. I thought it was cool because similar concepts to why chewing gum helps memory and attention are somewhat related to stuff I’m doing for my research methods project. The fact that chewing gum raises neural activity goes totally in line with some of the research we found of white noise helping memory. In one study with people who had ADHD they found that white noise significantly helped working memory. It’s interesting to me that many different kinds of stimuli that we wouldn’t really assume that it would help memory and attention can actually do a lot. Super fun read and loved that I could tie parts of it to stuff that I’m doing more research on.

  2. tsiburn

    I thought this was a really interesting post. Relating cognitive processes to a physical action is something that is probably underutilized as a study tool. In elementary and middle school our teachers would put together standardized test survival packs and almost every time, we would receive chewing gum or hard candy mints. At the time we saw it as free candy on an already not so fun day. However, our teachers would tell us how sucking on candy or chewing gum would help us focus. I think that this idea is interesting and brings up more questions. Could the energy being put into the gum or candy be in place of nervous energy about the test? Is there anything that supports how the mint flavor could make you more alert and focused?
    There are also study tips out there that if you chew gum during study sessions and the same gum when taking the test, it will help your memory. More research on studies that look at this possible correlation would be pretty cool to read.

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