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Chewing gum for enhanced productivity – a myth?


Do you usually chew a gum when in stressful situations or when you have to concentrate on something important? If the answer is yes, then you might unconsciously “know” what researchers are trying to find out: is chewing gum related to an increase in productivity?

The first study trying to prove that chewing gum has a positive influence on our brain was conducted in 2000, when some Japanese researchers found out that chewing gum is increasing brain activity in the hippocampus, the part of the brain which is responsible for our memory.

Noisli - Chewing Gum

Since then, a lot of studies have been conducted, and all in favor of chewing gum. But, a recent study conducted in 2006 by Miles and Johnson did a re-examination of the studies from 2002 and 2004 which suggested that chewing gum aids immediate recall of visually presented words and that chewing gum can produce context-dependent effects upon memory.
The study from Miles and Johnson states that

chewing gum exerts no effect on learning of visually presented word lists nor does it exert a context-dependent effect in an immediate word recall paradigm.

And yet, the most recent study from 2013 shows that: “chewing gum will help you to stay more alert and focused, especially during monotonous tasks. The participants scored better test results and thus had a better short-term memory during a 30 min audio task.
Researchers also monitored an increase in blood oxygen which might be responsible for higher alertness.

It’s not about the gum

Let’s go away from the medium (the gum) and take a closer look of what chewing a gum actually does: It makes you chew.
In 2015 researches of Japan have stated that

Mastication (chewing) is an effective behaviour for coping with stress, likely due to the alterations chewing causes in the activity of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis and autonomic nervous system.

You can see the same behaviour in animals that chew for example on wooden sticks during stressful situations in order to relieve their anxiety and to calm down.
Furthermore the researchers concluded that “Gum chewing during stress may affect the levels of various stress markers in the saliva and plasma and increase attention, self-rated alertness, and vigilance.”

Finally, people who chewed gum effectively reduced their feelings of sleepiness and looked less exhausted. Chewing a gum might therefore be especially effective to prevent the famous afternoon slump.


Researchers seem not to be able to find a common conviction if chewing gum can have a positive impact on our productivity or not, although recent studies tend to confirm its positive effect.

Next time you are in a stressful situation or in desperate need of focus, try to chew a gum and pay attention if it works for you or not. In any case, you’ll look cooler :)

For more productivity hecks check out 100 Hacks To Get Things Done – The Ultimate Productivity List.

Avatar photo Written by Sabine Staggl

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