Chewing Gum Negatively Impacts Short-Term Memory Recall Say Scientists

Posted on April 29, 2012

The results of several experiments were published in The Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology. These experiments found that chewing gum impairs short-term memory recall. They also found that tapping interferes with short-term memory to a similar degree. There were three experiments in the experiments conducted by scientists at Cardiff University's School of Psychology: The series of experiments found chewing gum makes it more difficult to perform on standard STM tests, such as the the reproduction of a short sequence of items and the missing-item task (participants are required to identify a missing item from a randomly ordered fixed set of items). The researchers found recall was significantly poorer whilst participants were chewing gum.

The results of this study contradict previous studies that found chewing gum helps with short-term memory recall. The researchers say it is possible the discrepancy may have something to do with the fact they did not use flavored gum in their study. Wrigley's flavorless gum was used for the study. Even so, the scientists note that a gum's flavor doesn't last very long and any memory boost associated with flavor would be short-lived.

The researchers say, "It is feasible that there could be an evolutionary advantage to better encode one's environment in the presence of a palatable stimulus to be able to later recreate the circumstances in which the stimulus was found. Thus, in the present study, it is possible that a flavoured gum could have enhanced encoding and would thus have offset the negative effects of the concurrent motor task. However, because chewing gum usually loses its flavour after several minutes of chewing, with flavourless gum being potentially quite unpalatable, it seems advisable, especially in light of the current findings, that chewing gum is only considered a performance enhancer as long as its flavour lasts. Thereafter, the adverse effects on cognition, as demonstrated in the present study, might outweigh the beneficial ones."

A study from earlier this year found that people chewing gum during tests had significantly better test scores.