Can Playing Tetris Reduce Cravings?

Tetris strikes again. A new international study, published in the journal Addictive Behaviors, has found that playing the popular electronic tile puzzle game may make it easier for people to fight off cravings.

Researchers from the University of Plymouth in the UK and Queensland University of Technology in Australia analyzed 31 undergraduates between ages 18 to 27, of which 24 were females and seven were males. Participants were randomly separated into two groups. One group played Tetris while the other group acted as a control.

Throughout the experiment, participants were sent text messages asking about their cravings seven times a day for one week, including "Have you indulged in the item you reported craving previously?" "How much are you under the influence of alcohol?" and "Are you currently craving anything?"

If the last question solicited a yes, participants were then asked to rate their craving on a scale from zero to 100. For the Tetris group, they were assigned to first play the game for three minutes before answering the questions.

Results revealed that after briefly playing Tetris, cravings were reduced from 70 to 56 percent. One researcher noted that cravings involve the imagination and picturing the indulgence and satisfaction from the craving. But Tetris is a visually intense game and, therefore, already taps into the mental processes involved in imagery. This "Tetris effect" was consistent throughout the week involving all kinds of cravings.

Overall, cravings were reported 30 percent of the time. Food and non-alcoholic drinks were the most common cravings. Other substances, such as coffee, cigarettes, and alcohol comprised 21 percent of cravings. Activities, such as sleep, socializing, sex or playing video games totaled 16 percent of cravings.

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