February 11, 2014

Chewing Gum a Good Measure for Job Seekers?

Girl Blowing BubblesHere’s a suggestion for questions to ask job seekers: Are you a gum chewer? On the flip side, it might not hurt to offer an interviewer a stick of gum to demonstrate how good your cognitive skills might be.

Turns out chewing gum, which some deem annoying, can actually be effective for developing mental acuity. Maybe those Doublemint Twins weren’t dumb blondes after all.

Writing at wired.com, Jonah Lehrer says, “Gum is an effective booster of mental performance, conferring all sorts of benefits without any side effects.” He cites a St. Lawrence University study. Among its findings were, “[the] experiments investigated the effects of the timing of gum chewing on cognitive function, by administering a battery of cognitive tasks to participants who chewed gum either prior to or throughout testing, and comparing their performance to that of controls who did not chew gum. Chewing gum was associated with performance advantages on multiple measures when gum was chewed for 5 min before, but not during, cognitive testing.”

Lehrer delved deeper into the report to extract some of its findings. Among them, he said, “Those randomly assigned to the gum-chewing condition significantly outperformed those in the control condition on five out of six tests. (The one exception was verbal fluency, in which subjects were asked to name as many words as possible from a given category, such as “animals.”) The sugar content of the gum had no effect on test performance.” Five out of six dentists prefer you chew sugarless gum, though, when testing for mental acuity.

Turns out the clock ticks quickly when it comes to gum chewing. Lehrer reported, “While previous studies achieved similar results — chewing gum is often a better test aid than caffeine — this latest research investigated the time course of the gum advantage. It turns out to be rather short lived, as gum chewers only showed an increase in performance during the first 20 minutes of testing. After that, they performed identically to non-chewers.”

[One thing to note: at the top of the Wired.com article mentioned, there is a caveat about Lehrer’s work that states, Some work by this author has been found to fall outside our editorial standards. Not all posts have been checked.” I have read the links cited in his article and they are accurate. I didn’t want to you to doubt the veracity of this particular article by the author.]

Gum can also be a means for making you look fresh before an interview. Lehrer cites a study by researchers at Coventry University in England that showed mint gum decreases feelings of sleepiness. The study said people who chew mint gum look more alert. It could give you the edge you need, especially when being interviewed late in the day or over dinner. Chewing mint gum can make you feel less sleepy and make your eyes look more alert.

Once hired, are you going to want to chew gum at the workplace? Well, no less an expert than Peter Post, writing at Emily Post.com has opined on the topic. In response to a reader’s query, he said, “The short answer is that it is appropriate to chew gum on the job, as long as you do it quietly. It is not appropriate, however, to pop bubbles or make smacking sounds or other unseemly noises that disturb others. Still, just because chewing is acceptable doesn’t mean it’s OK to gross out your co-workers.

“As so often with etiquette,” Post continued, “it’s not what you do that matters, it’s how you do it: gum chewers need to be aware of how their chewing affects others. They should keep a tissue or wrapper handy for disposing of their gum, and be ready to get rid of it at a moment’s notice–especially if they’re suddenly called into a meeting with a manager or a prospective client.”

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Keith Griffin is an award-winning business writer and editor with more than 30 years experience as a journalist. His work has been published in The Boston Globe, Medical Economist, Good Housekeeping, About.com, the Hartford Courant, CT Law Tribune and numerous other regional publications.
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