Friday, February 21, 2014

Popcorn Brain---or Don't Chew While You Study by Roz Denny Fox


 

By now those of you who read my blogs probably realize I like to read up on, and discuss little known studies. The one I chose today was titled: “Popcorn Amnesia.” Research published in the Journal of Consumer Psychology presents data from a study conducted by psychologists at the University of Cologne.

A number of German test subjects were sent to a movie and shown commercials typical of the ones that often run prior to the start of main features. Half of the participants were given a bag of popcorn, the other half a sugar cube. One week later the people who ate the sugar cube had a clear recollection of the advertisements they’d seen while the popcorn eaters didn’t.

Following a series of similar tests researchers determined it wasn’t the popcorn, but the chewing itself that blocked out the visual repetition commercials depend on to attract buyers to their products. A subsequent study involved half of the subjects being given chewing gum and half without. This group was presented a series of nonsense words. At a later date the group chewing the gum had much less recall of the words they’d seen than did the non-gum-chewing group. Early advertisers worked on the premise that people connected through simple visual effect. New marketers are thinking that may not be true. More than mere exposure, it may pay to repeat the name of the product over and over in order to catch people between bites. 

If, like I did at first, your thought is these studies are silly and have no value to your life, these researchers really do make some points.

For instance when a person reads something they need to absorb for a presentation or their career, or in the case of students studying for a test, it’s common to snack while reading. The researchers think a person would understand more of what they’ve read if they put off eating until after they finish reading something they hope to retain. Researchers say there are increasingly more settings in which people are trying to learn while eating. Consider the working breakfast, a client dinner, or lunch eaten at one’s desk while catching up on email.

One of the popcorn study’s authors, a neuroscientist at the university believes the act of chewing keeps someone from the covert simulation process of the mind repeating what the eye sees. He says chewing monopolizes the speech muscles effectively drowning out the process of familiarization.

So what do you think? Do you agree that crunching popcorn throws up roadblocks in your brain?

 

17 comments:

  1. Great post Roz! As someone who studied Linguistics, Speech Pathology and Neuroscience in University, I totally believe this study:) Interesting for sure!

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    1. Jen, I'm impressed that you have this background. I just like the subject of the brain so dig into stuff written about it.

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  2. Hmmm. I'm not sure, but I have read that sniffing rosemary while trying to learn something will enhance the memory. Either that, or you will have strong pizza cravings!

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    1. Dana, Funny. It could be no more scientific than sniff and scratch stickers affecting the brain. LOL

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  3. Though, I might also venture a guess that the effect of the sugar cube might have also played a role. Would have been better if the control group had received nothing lol.

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  4. Roz, this is so interesting. I've noticed I have trouble hearing when I'm chewing. I always thought that was strange and just me, but maybe it isn't. As long as I can still have my tea while I'm working, I'll be fine. And - thanks, Dana - maybe I'll tape a little rosemary to my nose.

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  5. I know one thing for sure - I'm not going to edit and eat at the same time! Thanks for sharing

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  6. THis is a very interesting study! Thanks for making us aware of it. I had always heard that chewing peppermint gum would increase productivity...but maybe it's just the peppermint. Are there any studies that show a decrease in brain function when chewing and driving? (I bet fast food restaurants with drive throughs would squash those findings!)

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  7. As a former teacher, I feel vindicated! There is a solid reason why we say no to chewing gum in school- in addition to keeping the school clean and not distracting others, the chewing will prevent them from fully absorbing the lesson! Educators and students should know about this!

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    1. was thinking the same thing. I was also thinking about thte times in my life when I chewed gum.

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  8. Really interesting...back to what Shannon was saying, how often have we heard the saying, "...can't chew gum and (fill in the blank) at the same time." Perhaps it is truer than we would like to believe.

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  9. Wow, now I want to try that! Find something (unimportant) that I'd like to learn, and do it two separate times with and without popcorn.

    Heck, any excuse to eat popcorn is worthwhile...and if it's in the name of research, I can justify eating a whole lot more. :)

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    1. Yes, Laurie, we must...in the name of reseach!

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  10. I can see the skeptics among us. But I admit it sounds a bit far fetched.
    I'm sure there are other factors, like how tired you are, or if you're distracted by people you are with.
    I just got back from the Tucson Rodeo. It was really hot today, so I'm a little sunburned. My granddaughters had never been to a rodeo, so they had fun. There were a lot of people in the stands. The best weather we've had for rodeo in a long time.

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  11. I'm a believer that somehow chewing can distract you. Now, I'm relieved that during our meetings we don't eat lunch while the speaker is presenting. That would mean we'd remember a lot less.

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  12. Hey, Roz! I love this discussion. When I write, I always have music or sounds--like a train on tracks or a storm, or maybe a movie I've watched a million times going in my headphones. Because otherwise, I'm distracted by all the extra thoughts in my head. I need noise to cancel out all the noise. But, when I go to a movie, I cannot resist the popcorn, and I always roll up the bag and put it away when the feature starts. I guess eating and making lots of noise aren't necessarily the same things, but It's interesting that the popcorn has to go away when I'm ready to concentrate on a movie. (Love going to the movies.)

    Interesting question! ;-)

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  13. As usual, Roz, you came up with a fascinating subject I'd never heard about before. I work at a community college, and I plan to give my teachers this info. I love popcorn and chew gum all the time. No wonder my mind isn't always working so well.

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