The Tetris Effect
Everyone has spent at least a few hours playing Tetris, but what happens if you play it for too long? Do you get square eyes? Well, sort of. Just like looking into bright lights leaves an after image on your retinas, you can see this when you blink. Look at this white square for 10 seconds, and then blink. Okay, now rapidly blink. The Tetris effect is similar to that after image, the difference is that the after image is present in the brain. You may be more familiar with this effect than you realise. Had you ever had a song stuck in your head That’s the Tetris Effect, the specific example of music being stuck in ones head is called Earworm.
The Tetris Effect is an interesting psychological phenomena, which can arise from extended periods partaking in mental or physical activities.
The Tetris effect is not limited to people playing Tetris or even other video games. In fact it is applicable to any physical or mental activity experienced over extended periods of time. A common symptom of the Tetris effect is hypnogogic images approaching and during sleep. Specific examples include a study by Stickgold et al, wherein participants played Tetris for extended periods of time, 7 hours over 3 days. Upon falling asleep the participants claimed to have seen the falling blocks from Tetris. The experimental group in this study were people with amnesia with extensive bilateral medial temporal lobe damage. Interestingly, these participants could not remember playing the game, but they experienced the effect and hypnogogic images all the same.
People afflicted with the Tetris effect often report increased thoughts about the activity they have spent a long time doing and even report to have thinking patterns around their activity. To return to the example of Tetris, the individual afflicted may report seeing tiles on a floor as shapes from the game.