Tetris and mental rotation.
Research has shown a possible causative link between playing the popular videogame Tetris and improvements in Mental Rotation performance. The aim of the present study was to address a question about an aspect of Tetris expertise that had not yet been factored into any of the existing work on Tetris and Mental Rotation. David Kirsh and Paul Maglio (1994) have shown that skilled Tetris players appear to use physical actions as substitutes for, or compliments to, mental operations. This is hypothesised to include physically rotating game pieces instead of Mentally Rotating them. The specific question we sought to address in the present study was whether these physical substitutes for mental operations, which Kirsh and Maglio call epistemic actions, have an effect on Tetris' efficacy as a Mental Rotation training task. In order to address this research question, three groups of subjects were administered tests of Mental Rotation ability before and after a five week training period. The training period consisted of a total of five, hour long, laboratory sessions - evenly spaced across the training period - in which each of the three groups were required to play an assigned video-game. The results showed that a group of subjects (N=13) who received Tetris training on the version of the game that made epistemic actions involving rotation impossible showed no greater Mental Rotation performance gains when their results were compared to a group of subjects (N=13) trained using a Standard version of Tetris. This suggests that the occurence of epistemic actions does not have an impact on Tetris' efficacy as a Mental Rotation training task. Further, neither of these two groups showed greater Mental Rotation performance gains than the non-Tetris control group (N=14), a result which suggests that, at least under some circumstances, Tetris training fails to impart Mental Rotation performance gains any greater than what can be expected due to retest effects.