Every now and then there is one thing we love to do so much that we can't think about anything else. Outside of the activity, your thoughts only revolve around it and during the exercise you feel incredibly good. Almost high. Chances are you've experienced this slesnr before. This phenomenon is known as the Tetris effect.
What makes the Tetris effect?
The Tetris effect, or Tetris state, is a psychological phenomenon in which people become so focused on a task that it interferes with their daily lives. This usually happens when we are so engrossed in something, such as a video game or a work project, that we keep thinking about it even after we have finished. Psychologists have found that the Tetris effect often leads to better performance, but it can also have negative effects if it goes too far.
How does it work?
At its core, the Tetris effect works by getting us into a repetitive cycle of obsession - we focus so hard on certain tasks that we can't concentrate on anything else. This often results in us obsessing over certain activities and having difficulty leaving them behind - because our brains are conditioned to return to them again and again due to the satisfaction associated with completing the tasks.
Other theories suggest that this behavior is not always intentional either, as people are often unaware of how much time they spend on a particular activity until it starts to negatively impact their lives (e.g., when someone spends hours playing video games instead of studying for exams). In some cases, people even engage in risky behaviors, such as playing online poker for real money, even though they know the risks involved - and that's because they feel addicted or are driven by the thrill of winning.
We have already mentioned a few examples. Video games (the fact that this phenomenon bears the name of a video game is no coincidence), gambling, work projects. But of course there are countless more.
Another example is everyday life on social media, where we tend to check notifications or scroll through our feeds when they really wanted to stop - eventually sending them into an almost trance-like state where they can't tear themselves away from their phone or computer screen. Sound familiar? Definitely to me.
Risks and opportunities
By recognizing how the Tetris effect works, we can ensure that we don't fall prey to it and consequently become overly addicted or obsessed with certain activities - allowing us to maintain a sense of healthy boundaries and prevent ourselves from getting dangerously carried away with things.
If we fail to do so, this phenomenon can also cause us to resist change or trying new things - which may prevent us from discovering opportunities that could change our lives for the better if we had the chance.
But it is also possible to use this phenomenon as a lever to get things done or to become really good in certain areas. If you can get into the Tetris state in activities that move you forward in life, you've found a true catalyst to reach whole new heights.
This phenomenon, by the way, shares many similarities with another state we've touched on many times before: The flow (here you can find a related article)