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The Tetris Effect

Oct 23, 2012

As I have let on in previous posts, I am very very very interested in psychology, and as I was browsing different psychology material I came across something interesting.

There is an actual psychological condition known as "The Tetris Effect." It is a condition where prolonged repetition of advanced brainwork causes you to repeat the behavior in real life. This first showed up when the popular game Tetris was released. Tetris required you fit falling blocks of different shapes into each other as they fall to create a line, which then disappears. This requires a large amount of spacial thinking and forces the player to think ahead to what will happen next. People soon became mentally addicted (different from physical addiction) to the game, and kept playing for extended periods of time repetitively. But after such prolonged mental activity, people wouldn't stop at just the game. People would walk down the street and see a bunch of boxes and line them up in there head, and try to stack trees so they fit each other.

Similar cases that have nothing to do with Tetris have appeared ever since. After intense continuous play of Dance Dance Revolution, it has been reported that people see arrows flying downward when they close there eyes, and they move in only the four direction allowed in DDR. People have reported reaching for a non-existent button in their car to fire a missile at a person in front of them. Panic attacks have surfaced when FPS people notice that there isn't a crosshair in the middle of their vision and they are unarmed.

Video games aren't nessicarily the cause, people have reported that they frequently reach for Ctrl+Z when they do something wrong, or Ctrl+S when they do something right and want to save it. Ever since people were looking for happenings like this, they seemed to just pop up in everyday life. One person involuntarily moves to click the rewind button on an imaginary remote, another slinks along corners to avoid being shot at by an imaginary assassin, while yet another avoids video cameras at banks after a Splinter Cell binge.

While it isn't nessicarily a 'problem' common among people as a whole, it has gripped many people whether they are aware of it or not.

Visual, kinesthetic, and mental repetition are not the only forms that this shows up. A similar ailment are subjects of dreams. Have you ever stopped coding after a 4 hour coding spree, then go to bed exhausted and dream of code? Even common harmless things such as having a song stuck in your head are caused by the same process. This process is most likely linked to "Procedural Memory" which is what you use when you react without thinking, as if you were trained to do what ever it was after the memory receives conformation on the stimuli, this is the root of muscle memory.

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