Tetris, which was first released in June 1984, is among the most popular games of all time. It appears that the tile-matching puzzle game, which was originally designed and programmed by Russian Alexey Pajitnov, has applications that go beyond gaming.

Findings of new research conducted by psychologists from Australia suggest that Tetris could help curb addictive behaviors.

Playing the game for only three minutes was found to help weaken cravings and this does not just apply to cravings for food but also on drugs, sex, sleep, cigarettes and more.

For their study published in the journal Addictive Behaviors, researchers involved 31 undergraduates, 15 of whom were told to play Tetris for three minutes at a time. The participants were asked to report the cravings they feel before and after playing the game on a scale of zero to 100.

The researchers found that the craving levels of the students were generally lowered by nearly 14 percent after playing Tetris.

As to why playing the game could be helpful in managing cravings among addicts, the researchers said that it distracts people from their damaging behavior.

Study researcher Jackie Andrade, from Plymouth University, said that the Tetris effect occurs because cravings involve imagining the indulgence in an activity or the consumption of a particular substance.

Playing a visually interesting game helps occupy the mental process supporting imagery so it is difficult to clearly imagine something while playing Tetris at the same time.

Andrade said that playing Tetris reduces craving strength for food, drugs, and activities from 70 percent to 56 percent and that the experiment marks the first time it was shown that cognitive interference can be used outside laboratory settings to curb cravings for substances and other activities besides eating.

"This study extends laboratory findings to real-world settings and cravings for drugs or activities as well as food," the researchers wrote. "This is the first demonstration that visual cognitive interference can be used in the field to reduce cravings for substances and activities other than eating."

The researchers likewise said that the effect of Tetris on cravings remained consistent for a week and on all types of carvings.

"People played the game 40 times on average but the effect did not seem to wear off. This finding is potentially important because an intervention that worked solely because it was novel and unusual would have diminishing benefits over time as participants became familiar with it," said Jon May, from Plymouth University. 

Photo: Dan Taylor | Flickr

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