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Having trouble focusing? Try chewing gum.

Illustration for article titled Having trouble focusing? Try chewing gum.

The longer the task, the more difficult it is to avoid drifting off. But as a new study from the University of Cardiff has shown, people who chew gum have an enhanced ability to concentrate over extended periods of time, along with the added benefit of quicker reaction times.


Chewing gum has been much maligned recently, including a study from last year showing that it negatively impacts short-term memory task performance. But as the new study by Kate Morgan suggests, this may not actually be the case.

For her experiment, Morgan took 38 volunteers and split them into two groups. Both groups had to complete an insanely boring task in which they were fed random numbers for a half hour. Participants were judged on their ability to detect a sequence of odd-even-odd numbers, like 5-4-9 (it's called the Bakan task).


For those who chewed gum during the exercise, they had superior reaction times and more accurate results. Interestingly, people who didn’t chew gum performed better at the beginning of the exercise, but they eventually drifted off.

According to Morgan, chewing gum improves the vigilance decrement — which is the human tendency to experience a decline in focused awareness over extended periods of time, especially when the stimulus is weak. But chewing gum, it would appear, can help us focus on tasks that require continuous monitoring over a longer amount of time.

Moreover, Morgan’s study also shows that it can play a beneficial role in the continuous updating of order memory, which contradicts the study from last year.

Read the entire study at the British Journal of Psychology.

Image: Shutterstock/Africa Studio.


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George Dvorsky

Has anyone seen where I misplaced my pack of chew — Look! There's a squirrel!