Playing Tetris can diminish cravings for food, cigarettes, and alcohol

February 24, 2014

Playing Tetris for just three minutes can reduce the strength of cravings for food, cigarettes or alcohol, according to a new study conducted at Plymouth University.

Psychologists at Plymouth University say the provided by the game could reduce naturally occurring cravings for long enough to ward them off.

They believe it could provide a quick and manageable fix for people struggling to stick to diets, or trying to give up smoking or alcohol, providing an essential boost for willpower.

The research - published in the Appetite journal - was conducted by PhD student Jessica Skorka-Brown, alongside Professors Jackie Andrade and Jon May, from the University's Cognition Institute.

Professor Andrade said: "Episodes of craving normally only last a few minutes, during which time an individual is visualising what they want and the reward it will bring. Often those feelings result in the person giving in and consuming the very thing they are trying to resist. But by playing Tetris, just in , you are preventing your brain creating those enticing images and without them the craving fades."

The study was conducted at the University, and asked participants to detail if and what they were craving and to rate those cravings in terms of their strength, vividness and intrusiveness.

One group of participants then played Tetris while a second sat in front of a screen, being told it was attempting to load, but ultimately not playing.

After just three minutes, the individuals were again asked to rate their cravings with the people who played Tetris experiencing 24 per cent weaker cravings than those who waited unsuccessfully for the game to load.

The research tests elaborated intrusion (EI) theory – which dictates that imagery is central to craving, and therefore a visual task should decrease it – and shows that it applies to naturally occurring cravings.

"Feeling in control is an important part of staying motivated, and playing Tetris can potentially help the individual to stay in control when cravings strike," said Professor Andrade. "It is something a person can quickly access, for the most part whether they are at work or at home, and replaces the feeling of stress caused by the craving itself. Ultimately, we are constantly looking for ways to stimulate cravings for healthy activities – such as exercise – but this a neutral activity that we have shown can have a positive impact."

Explore further: Drugs from lizard saliva reduces the cravings for food

More information: Jessica Skorka-Brown, Jackie Andrade, Jon May, "Playing 'Tetris' reduces the strength, frequency and vividness of naturally occurring cravings," Appetite, Available online 5 February 2014, ISSN 0195-6663,

Related Stories

Drugs from lizard saliva reduces the cravings for food

May 15, 2012

A drug made from the saliva of the Gila monster lizard is effective in reducing the craving for food. Researchers at the Sahlgrenska Academy, University of Gothenburg, have tested the drug on rats, who after treatment ceased ...

fMRI study uncovers neural mechanism underlying drug cravings

January 28, 2013

Addiction may result from abnormal brain circuitry in the frontal cortex, the part of the brain that controls decision-making. Researchers from the RIKEN Center for Molecular Imaging Science in Japan collaborating with colleagues ...

The craving brain

February 12, 2014

"All I want is a huge steak. I must need more iron." Chances are you, too, have uttered similar words, and quickly proceeded to a local steakhouse for dinner.

Recommended for you

Serious research into what makes us laugh

November 24, 2015

More complex jokes tend to be funnier but only up to a point, Oxford researchers have found. Jokes that are too complicated tend to lose the audience.

Psychologists dispute continuum theory of sexual orientation

November 19, 2015

Washington State University researchers have established a categorical distinction between people who are heterosexual and those who are not. By analyzing the reported sexual behavior, identity and attraction of more than ...

Babies have logical reasoning before age one, study finds

November 18, 2015

Human infants are capable of deductive problem solving as early as 10 months of age, a new study by psychologists at Emory University and Bucknell finds. The journal Developmental Science is publishing the research, showing ...

1 comment

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

not rated yet Feb 24, 2014
but can it diminish cravings to play more tetris?

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.