My informant, a college student at USC, describes a ritual she performs to improve her performance on tests. “What I do before any exam, especially if it’s one that I have to like sit in, I chew a piece of gum, like I have to have gum when I’m taking a test, otherwise I, like, I can’t really focus kind of? I didn’t realize it was magic until this class, but it does kind of have like a magical vibe to it because I feel like if I chew this gum im going to be able to like focus more, and so it’s kind of a way to like extract my memory this ensures that I do well and perform well on the test. If i don’t have my gum, I feel like the test is gonna go really poorly. But this is typically applicable for like, big tests. Where, like, I intentionally bring gum to like a big test and make sure that I kinda ration it out while I’m taking the test so I’ll like bite half of it, and then the second half of the test I’ll take the other half.”
“I didn’t really know if a lot of people do this, but, yeah, this is just a good luck charm, and gum tends to be a good luck charm to my anxiety, being in stressful situations. I guess it’s some sort of magic where it’s ensuring that I perform well.”
The informant exists in a competitive academic environment, so performing well on tests is crucial to her success. Whether or not the difference between chewing gum or not should affect cognitive performance, is less important than the anxiety relief that comes from having a routine. Establishing this ritual may allow the informant to feel that she is in control of the situation, and is able to diminish some testing anxiety by doing something that is familiar.