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Tetris effect


The Tetris effect is the ability of any activity to which people devote sufficient time and attention to begin to dominate their thoughts, mental images, and dreams. It is named after the video game Tetris. In the game a player rotates and moves different falling shapes made up of blocks. If the player can arrange the shapes so there are complete horizontal lines of blocks without any gaps, those lines are eliminated. The object of the game is to eliminate as many lines as possible before the shapes fill the screen.

People who play Tetris for a long time might then find themselves thinking about ways different shapes in the real world can fit together, such as the boxes on a supermarket shelf or the buildings on a street.[1] In this sense, the Tetris effect is a form of habit.

They might also see images of falling Tetris shapes at the edges of their visual fields or when they close their eyes.[1] In this sense, the Tetris effect is a form of hallucination.

They might also dream about falling Tetris shapes when drifting off to sleep.[2] In this sense, the Tetris effect is a form of hypnagogic imagery.

Additional recommended knowledge


Other examples

The Tetris effect can occur with other video games,[3] with any prolonged visual task (such as classifying cells on microscope slides, weeding, picking fruit, assembling burgers, or even playing chess), and in other sensory modalities. For example, in audition there is the tendency for a catchy tune to play out unbidden in one's mind (an earworm). In kinesthesis, a person newly on land after spending long periods at sea may move with an unbidden rocking motion, having become accustomed to the ship making such movements (known as sea legs or mal de debarquement).

Place in memory

Stickgold et al. (2000) have proposed that Tetris imagery is a separate form of memory, likely related to procedural memory. This is from their research in which they showed that people with anterograde amnesia, unable to form new declarative memories, reported dreaming of falling shapes after playing Tetris during the day, despite not being able to remember playing the game at all.[2]

History of the term

According to Earling (1996),[1] one of the first references to the term is by Gareth Kidd in February, 1996.[4] Kidd described "after-images of the game for up to days afterwards" and "a tendency to identify everything in the world as being made of four squares and attempt to determine 'where it fits in'". Kidd attributed the origin of the term to computer-game players from Adelaide, Australia.

In popular culture

  • The ability of Tetris to dominate one's thoughts was parodied in The Simpsons episode Strong Arms of the Ma.

See also

  • Neuroplasticity
  • Highway hypnosis


  1. ^ a b c Earling, A. (1996, March 21-28). The Tetris Effect: Do computer games fry your brain? "Philadelphia City Paper [1]
  2. ^ a b Stickgold, R., Malia, A., Maguire, D., Roddenberry, D., & O'Connor, M. (2000). Replaying the game: Hypnagogic images in normals and amnesics. Science 290: 350-353. (free abstract) [2]
  3. ^ Terdiman, D. (January 11, 2005). Real World Doesn't Use a Joystick Wired [3]
  4. ^ Kidd, G. (1996). Possible future risk of virtual reality. The RISKS Digest: Forum on Risks to the Public in Computers and Related Systems 17(78) [4]
This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Tetris_effect". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.
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