Game on!
Image: Damien McFerran / Nintendo Life

A three minute block-busting blast on Tetris can curb the desire for food, alcohol and cigarettes, a team of researchers is claiming.

A team of psychologists from Plymouth University and Queensland University of Technology conducted an experiment to monitor the impact of playing Tetris on a group of 31 participants aged between 18 and 27. As part of the experiment, the test subjects were asked to report any cravings they were having via a text message. They were also asked to report cravings on their own volition, without any prompts from the research team. Fifteen of the participants were told to play Tetris for three minutes before reporting their craving levels again.

The researchers found cravings were reported in around 30 percent of instances, and were mostly for food and non-alcoholic drinks. A fifth of the cravings involved what could be deemed as drugs - such as coffee, cigarettes, wine and beer. 16 percent were cravings for things like sleeping, playing video games and (ahem) having sex.

It was found that playing Tetris reduced theses cravings. Drugs (alcohol, nicotine, caffeine) and activities like sex and gaming dropped by an average of 13.9 percent.

Here's what study author Jackie Andrade had to say about the results:

Playing Tetris decreased craving strength for drugs, food, and activities from 70% to 56%. 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 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. As a support tool, Tetris could help people manage their cravings in their daily lives and over extended time periods.

Another author, Jon May, stressed the importance of the effect not wearing 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.

Thanks to Robert Dittmer for the tip!