Test Your Memory With a Game Designed by Johns Hopkins Researchers

iStock.
iStock.

This video from Johns Hopkins University feels like your basic memory game. Viewers are first asked to look at a series of moving images; later in the exercise, they must select the pictures they were shown from the ones they haven’t seen. If some images feel easier to memorize than others, that’s the point: The test demonstrates how motion can impact memory.

As Slate reports, objects that emerge twice from one side of the frame are more likely to stick in our heads than those that appear from opposite sides. That’s because our brain treats a single image that swaps sides as two items, while an image that stays in one half of the screen feels more like a single object. This fits into our understanding of the world: If we saw someone duck into a doorway on the left side of a room and come back the same way, we’d assume they were one person. But if we saw someone walk through that same door and re-enter the room from the right side, we’d be confused. See if you can conquer Johns Hopkins’s mind-bending motion trick below.

[h/t Slate]

Feeling Stressed? Playing Tetris Could Help Relieve Your Anxiety

iStock/Radachynskyi
iStock/Radachynskyi

When Nintendo released their handheld Game Boy system in the U.S. and Japan in 1989, the first game most users experimented with was Tetris. Bundled with the system, the clever puzzler—which prompts players to line up a descending array of tiles to create horizontal lines—was the video game equivalent of an addictive drug. Some players described seeing the shapes in their dreams. The game was in the hands of 35 million portable players; by 2010, it had sold 100 million smartphone downloads.

Now, there’s evidence that Tetris players may have a solution to anxiety in the palms of their hands. According to a paper published in the journal Emotion, Tetris has the capability to relieve stress and troubling thoughts by providing a form of distraction.

As part of a larger study about the benefits of distraction, researchers at the University of California, Riverside conducted an experiment on 309 college students who were told to expect some anxiety-provoking news: They were told someone would be offering an evaluation of their physical attractiveness. While they waited for their results, a third of the subjects played a slow-moving, beginner-level version of Tetris; another group played a high-speed variation; and a third played an adaptive version, which automatically adjusted the speed of the game based on the player’s abilities.

Tetris games that were too slow or too fast bored or frustrated players, respectively. But the game that provided a moderate challenge helped reduce the subjects’ perception of their stress levels. They reported a quarter-point higher level of positive emotions on a five-point scale and a half-point reduction of negative emotions. The students still worried about the results of the attractiveness evaluation, but they experienced fewer negative feelings about it.

The key, according to the study, is that the students were experiencing “flow,” a state of mind in which you’re so engrossed in an activity that you lose your sense of self-awareness. While Tetris may be one of the best ways to quickly fall into flow, anything that consumes your attention—playing music, drawing, cooking—is likely to work.

The next time you have to wait for potentially life-altering news, you may find that a Tetris session will help you cope.

[h/t NPR]

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