According to researchers, playing the classic stacking game Tetris can relieve cravings for drugs, food, and alcohol by nearly one-fifth.
Previous research had already found that Tetris could effectively alleviate cravings in a laboratory settings. While most studies focused on cravings for food, Plymouth University and Queensland University of Technology researchers found playing the game can also be an effective way to reduce cravings for smoking, coffee, alcohol, sleeping, and sex outside of the laboratory setting.
Dr. Jackie Andrade, professor of psychology at Plymouth University, was quoted by United Press International as having said that Tetris works to reduce cravings because “craving involves imagining the experience of consuming a particular substance” and playing Tetris makes it difficult to vividly imagine anything else.
We think the Tetris effect happens because craving involves imagining the experience of consuming a particular substance or indulging in a particular activity. Playing a visually interesting game like Tetris occupies the mental processes that support that imagery — it is hard to imagine something vividly and play Tetris at the same time.
For the study, researchers gave 31 undergraduates between 18 and 27 iPods with the Tetris game. The students were texted 7 times a day to report cravings. Study participants were also encouraged to self-report cravings.
Half of the students played Tetris for three minutes at a time when they felt a craving then reported back. The other half was used as a control.
Students reported cravings 30 percent of the time, usually for food or non-alcoholic beverages, which accounted for two-thirds of cravings. Cravings for anything considered a drug, such as coffee, beer, or cigarettes, were reported 21 percent of the time. Other cravings were for other activities like sleeping, sex, or socializing.
Among the group that played the old school video game, researchers found short gameplay could reduce the intensity of cravings from 70 percent to 56 percent.
The experiment lasted seven days with participants playing Tetris an average of 40 times. Geek reported that the impact of the game didn’t seem to wane at all, remaining a consistent and potent means of blocking cravings.