Working in a school I am constantly telling students to spit their gum out and a common retort is ‘but sir it makes me think better’. Even though I am all for people focusing on a problem I still tell them to put it in the bin, but should I be?
The act of chewing gum might suggest a slight improvement in mental capacity during chewing. The act of chewing increases blood flow and cerebral activity.
Also while some studies have shown an improvement in test performance and alertness does it really improve your memory?
A study performed by Rickman et al, 2012 attempted to test whether the act of chewing more pieces of gum had an effect on participants recall. The theory being the more gum you chew the more your blood is flowing and the more cerebral activity you will have.
The experimenters set two conditions in which the participants were chewing either 1 or 4 pieces of gum and then asked them to perform a series of free recall tasks to test their memory.
The results showed that there was no improvement in recall across both conditions so the amount of gum had no affect on recall.
Interestingly though the reults did show that there was some ‘context dependant memory effects’ meaning that if the participants were chewing the same amount of gum across conditions then they experienced a significant improvement in recall.
So now when I tell students to spit out their gum, I’ll still tell them to throw it away unless they were chewing in the previous lesson!