Need to concentrate? Pop a stick of gum into your mouth.
If you’re like the participants in a recent study at Cardiff University, you’ll finish your task more quickly and with better accuracy than you would without keeping your mouth busy.
The study, published in the British Journal of Psychology, builds on evidence from previous research that shows benefits of chewing gum such as increased blood flow to the frontal-temporal brain regions.
“It’s been well established by previous research that chewing gum can benefit some areas of cognition,” lead researcher Kate Morgan said in a press release. “In our study we focused on an audio task that involved short-term memory recall to see if chewing gum would improve concentration; especially in the latter stages of the task.”
To test participants on an auditory task, researchers asked half of 38 participants to chew gum while listening to a randomized list of single-digit numbers. Scores showed how accurately and quickly they were able to detect a sequence of odd-even-odd numbers. The gum-chewers were more successful on both counts.
“Interestingly, participants who didn’t chew gum performed slightly better at the beginning of the task, but were overtaken by the end,” Morgan said. “This suggests that chewing gum helps us focus on tasks that require continuous monitoring over a longer amount of time.”
People may need time to acclimate to the idea of chewing gum while completing another task, the researchers speculated in the study, so chewing gym may not be beneficial for extremely short-term tasks.