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5 Things Commonly Seen as Distractions That Actually Boost Memory Retention

Reading page after page of review materials can get tiring after a while, so it’s quite easy to find ourselves engaging in activities that are believed to have a bad effect on our ability to stay focused and remember things, but did you know that five things that are commonly seen as unnecessary distractions can actually boost memory retention?

Below are some examples.


Chewing Gum

Although scientific experiments on the benefits of chewing gum on memory retention and attention have mostly produced mixed results, various studies have shown that chewing gum while processing new information can affect people in different ways.

For example, FMRI scans of the brain activity of test subjects in one study showed that chewing gum has helped improve certain types of memories, while another study showed that test subjects who chewed gum while processing new information were able to stay focused on the task at hand for a longer period of time.

Taking that contradiction aside, they do appear to agree that this effect is triggered by the movement of the jaw and the corresponding brain activity that it triggers right after.

Now, whether the benefits of chewing on memory retention and attention extends to other types of food or not is something we’re sure we’d all be looking forward to hearing.



If you’ve ever felt bored in class, you’ve probably found yourself doodling away on your notebooks while listening to the discussion before you even realized. It’s an act that has always been discouraged by our parents and teachers as it’s typically seen as a sign of inattention or disinterest, but now, scientific studies suggest that this might actually have some benefits.

A study in Applied Cognitive Psychology has shown that “people who were encouraged to doodle while listening to a list of people’s names being read were able to remember 29% more of the information on a surprise quiz later.”

While this finding is still not yet conclusive because of the additional researches that are being conducted, researchers suspect that this is because doodling helps keep the brain from daydreaming — an activity that triggers a whole host of mental processes that would keep us from remembering something that we are trying to learn.

By doodling while, say, listening to a lesson, our brains are forced to stay alert enough for us to be able to draw random things, but not absorbed in the task enough to effectively block out what’s happening in the background.



Like doodling, fidgeting — making small movements with your body while engaged in a certain activity — has always had a bit of a bad reputation; however, recent researches suggest that as with the case with doodling, this might just be another misunderstanding.

In a study published in 2013, researchers reported that test subjects who fidgeted while listening to a 40-minute video were able to stay focused for a longer period of time than those who did not.

Furthermore, they found out that the more their test subjects engaged in “micro fidgeting” (making small movements that do not involve a complete change in position), the more information from the video that they were able to retain.

This is because, according to them, our ability to focus on a task naturally decreases as time passes. Think of it as our brains slowly falling asleep. When we make small movements that disrupt that state, our brain is jolted awake into refocusing on the task at hand.

So the next time you find yourself doing some micro fidgeting while flipping through your review materials, do not suppress your urges. Take it a sign that your brain is actively trying to keep you from losing focus instead and give it some time to restart its gears.



You know that feeling when you’ve been hunched over for hours poring over your review materials and you suddenly feel an inclination to go for a walk or do some light stretching?

It turns out, this doesn’t only give your probably cramped muscles an opportunity to loosen up before you get back to studying, it also improves your brain’s ability to organize and process information better.

According to researchers, this could be because exercise triggers the increase in production of chemicals that enhance our memory processes.

Similarly, scientists also believe that exercise can stimulate the production of new brain cells — expanding the brain’s neural networks which are responsible for connecting existing information with recently acquired ones.

How awesome is that?



You’ve been studying non-stop for hours and now your eyelids are starting to feel heavy. Would you give in to the pressure or try your hardest to stay awake to continue studying?

According to a research paper published in 2010, you might actually be better off caving in to your body’s desire because “dreaming may reactivate and reorganize recently learned material, improving memory, and boosting performance.”

This is because our so-called “waking brain” is primarily designed for storing memories while our “sleeping brain” is the one responsible for giving meaning to those memories.

It’s just like reading a ten-page review material. Your waking brain’s role is to store as much as the content of those ten pages in your memories as you can; however, out of those ten pages, you probably only need to remember seven of them. Deciding what should consist these seven pages and how they relate to previously acquired information is the responsibility of your “sleeping brain.

Without adequate sleep, your brain wouldn’t have enough opportunities to process and relate all these information to one another — limiting your ability to remember and make sense of the things that you are trying to study — so make sure you get enough shuteye in between study sessions.

Of course, people are built and react to stimuli differently, so what works for some may not necessarily work for others. Still, if you will be doing a lot of studying whether for school, for work, or for some other endeavor, it’s something that you might want to try out.

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