The end of the academic year is fast approaching and that means students of all levels will soon be facing finals and the dreaded standardized tests. For many, the hardest thing about the SAT, ACT, GRE or LSAT isn’t the difficulty of the question, but rather the monumental length of time required to complete each section. Now, new research shows that staying in the zone during a long test could be as simple as popping a piece of chewing gum before it starts.
A study published recently in the British Journal of Psychology found that chewing gum can improve concentration in visual memory tasks. The results build on previous research that established chewing gum can benefit some areas of cognition.
The current study involved 38 participants that were split into two groups. Both groups completed a 30 minute audio task that involved listening to a list of numbers from 1-9 being read out in a random manner. Researchers scored participants on how accurately and quickly they were able to detect a sequence of odd-even-odd numbers, such as 7-2-1. Participants also completed questionnaires on their mood both before and after the task.
It was discovered that participants who chewed gum had quicker reaction times and more accurate results than the participants who didn’t chew gum. This was especially the case towards the latter parts of the task.
“Interestingly, participants who didn’t chew gum performed slightly better at the beginning of the task but were overtaken by the end,” said study co-author Kate Morgan. ”This suggests that chewing gum helps us focus on tasks that require continuous monitoring over a longer amount of time.”
I’d like to tell you that there’s some fascinating connection between the tasty treat and increased powers of concentration, but the truth is scientists aren’t really sure why chewing gum delivers this benefit. “It doesn’t appear to depend on glucose, since sugar-free gum generated the same benefits,” reports Wired. “Instead, the researchers propose that gum enhances performance due to ‘mastication-induced arousal.’ The act of chewing, in other words, wakes us up, ensuring that we are fully focused on the task at hand. Unfortunately, this boost is fleeting.”
So, if you’re worried that you might become distracted, or even worse, drowsy by the time the math or essay portion of the test rolls around, forget the energy drinks. Stashing a couple pieces of your favorite gum in your pocket is likely to be a far better boost to your mental acuity. Just be sure to save it until the hardest part of the test.
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