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Does chewing gum improve learning?

The need to succeed in exams and be able to concentrate for long periods of time to increase learning has driven many students to look for left-field strategies that may work. This has led to a breeding ground of urban myths about what does or doesn’t help.

One of these beliefs states that chewing gum improves concentration and learning. So, is this a myth or is there some substance to it?

Profile portrait of young beautiful blowing chewing gum bubble.


What Does the Research Say about chewing gum and concentration?

Recent research looked to investigate the effects of chewing gum on student learning and alertness, across two different experiments. In the first one, the participants studied a 20-minute physiology lesson – some whilst chewing gum, some not. The researchers found that the former group outperformed those in the latter group on subsequent terminology and comprehension tests. However, they did not report higher levels of alertness following the study of test materials.

The researchers then conducted a second experiment where the participants were again either assigned to the chewing gum condition or not. However, this time they were only given 9 minutes to study a maths lesson. The researchers found that students who chewed gum not only outperformed students who didn’t in a problem-solving test, but also reported higher levels of post-test alertness.Taken together, these results show that chewing gum, even for a relatively short period of time, can boost how much students learn, and in some cases may improve alertness. However, this does come with a word of warning – if schools are going to allow their students to employ this strategy, they need to ensure that they set up a system where chewing gum can be disposed of easily and properly.

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