Tetris — a Brain Diversion

A new study, published in the journal Addictive Behaviors, reports that playing the game Tetris for only three minutes can substantially weaken cravings for food, drugs and other desired things.


Psychologists from the University of Plymouth, United Kingdom, and Queensland University of Technology, Australia, decided to find out if the tile-laying game would work on subjects in an everyday setting rather than a lab. The study is a sequel to research from 2014 outlining how the game affected cravings while in a lab environment.

Dr. Jackie Andrade, professor of psychology at Plymouth University, said the researchers believe the “Tetris effect” occurs due to the visual stimuli of the game. The visually interesting game occupies the part of the brain that supports imagery, making it difficult to focus on a craving and the game simultaneously.

The researchers recruited 31 undergraduates, 24 women and seven men ages 18 to 27. The subjects were separated into two groups: one control group without particular instruction and a second group specifically instructed to play Tetris. During the study, the subjects were questioned daily through text messages regarding any cravings that had taken place.

Both groups were asked the following questions seven times daily for one week:

    • Have you indulged in the item you reported craving previously?

    • How much are you under the influence of alcohol?

    • Are you currently craving anything?

Anyone answering yes to the final question were asked to rate the level of the craving on a scale ranging from zero to 100.

There was a slight variation in protocol for the Tetris group. Instead of simply answering the questions, they were instructed to play Tetris for three minutes and then report their feelings on cravings again. Following three minutes of playing Tetris, the subjects in the Tetris group reported a reduction in cravings from 70 percent to 56 percent. In total, cravings were reported 30 percent of the time, the most common cravings being for food or non-alcoholic drinks. Coffee, cigarettes, wine and beer made up 21 percent of the cravings. Sixteen percent of cravings were for mixed activities such as socializing, sleeping, playing video games and sex. Food cravings were slightly weaker than cravings in other categories.

The impact of Tetris remained consistent during the week and impacted all cravings including the desire to consume alcohol. The subjects played the game about 40 times with no reduction in effect, indicating that the results had a lasting effect. The study recommended further research including the recruitment of subjects who are already drug-dependent for information on Tetris’ effect on drug cravings. 

Professor Andrade said addiction is too complex to be treated by Tetris alone but it could be helpful in managing cravings, especially for people with intense urges to indulge addictions. Cravings can be a difficult obstacle to overcome when getting sober. Sovereign Health Group can assist those looking for a chance to recover. We can connect you with drug rehab centers for extensive substance abuse treatment. If you are looking for treatment centers for drug addiction and would like further information on battling cravingsFind Article, please reach out call 855–683–9756 to speak with a member of our team.

Author: Peter Guilorry
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