In the category of “I really can’t make this crap up,” a new study has shown that playing Tetris helps reduce cravings for nicotine (and food), possibly by stimulating the same part of the brain that controls cravings.
In this study from Australia, students were told to report when they had cravings for cigarettes, food and even sex. Half the students were given an iPad to play Tetris. Students reported that playing the game reduced their cravings “by a fifth.” (And how cravings are measured is beyond me.)
From a Daily Mail article:
The boffins from Plymouth University reckon playing the game works because it occupies the same mental processes used to imagine indulging in the craving.
The week-long study, which also involved Queensland University of Technology, Australia, focused on 31 undergraduates, aged between 18 and 27.
Professor Jackie Andrade, of Plymouth University, said: ‘This is the first demonstration that cognitive interference can be used outside the lab to reduce cravings for substances and activities other than eating.
‘We think the Tetris effect happens because craving involves imagining the experience of consuming a particular substance.
‘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.’
So, in all seriousness, perhaps this could actually help people quit smoking. Whenever people get the urge to smoke, perhaps they should reach for their iPhone and start playing Tetris (and I imagine other video games would like have a similar effect.).
By the way, Tetris is one of those old school games that I actually find kind of addicting. I’m still trying to find an old MS-DOS game a roommate of mine had about 25 years ago called “Hustle!” that was ridiculously addicting. It was one of those snake games, but I’ve never been able to find the exact game she had.