Study: Repetitive Behavior Reduces Anxiety

September 26, 2011 -

New research from Tel Aviv University suggests that playing video games can reduce stress across a spectrum of the population. A study conducted by Professor David Eilam and graduate student Hila Keren of TAU's Department of Zoology at the George S. Wise Faculty of Life Sciences found that repetitive behavior (like video games - which, for the record the study does not focus on or mention) and ritualistic behavior in particular in both humans and animals induces calm and helps manage stress caused by unpredictability and uncontrollability. Eliam and Keren also worked closely with Professor Pascal Boyer of Washington University and Dr. Joel Mort of the U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory. The research is published in Neuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews.

Eilam says that human and animal behavior can be divided into three categories: "preparatory," "functional," and "confirmatory." "Functional" is described as specific actions that must occur in order to complete a task. "Preparatory" and "confirmatory" actions, called "head" and "tail" actions by the researchers, are not required in order to get a job done. The latter two categories are completed before and after a central task, but they are not necessarily related to it. Individuals complete different head and tail activities for every task, say researchers.

During the course of the study, Eilam analyzed videotapes of people completing common tasks, such as getting dressed, locking a car, or making coffee, as well as basketball players completing free-throws. In the case of basketball players, explains Eilam, all they needed to do to complete their action is throw the ball. So why the ritualistic behavior, such as bouncing the ball precisely six times?

"The routine they perform in the moments before shooting the ball is a method to focus their full concentration and control their actions." Prof. Eilam says. It's also an essential part of sports psychology. If players feel that completing their repetitive actions will enhance their performance, they tend to be more successful. This could include anything from locker room antics to LeBron James' infamous pre-game chalk toss.

Head and tail activities can be different, but some people, like OCD sufferers, show exaggerated behavior, because they don't often understand whether the main task has been completed. These idiosyncrasies are individual to each person, says Prof. Eilam, who says that our rituals are like our fingerprints - unique to everyone. While everyone exhibits repetitive behavior, not all repetitive behavior is obsessive, researchers say. OCD patients present a pathological tendency towards repetitive behavior or thought patterns.

OCD patients engaged in more "tail" activity than basketball players who displayed more "head" activity, says Prof. Eilam. Researchers say that OCD sufferers often feel a sense of incompleteness when performing tasks because they are unsure whether or not their task has been completed, and compulsive behavior is driven by a need to verify action.

Because those who suffer from OCD can set themselves to complicated routines, they often cannot trust that they have fully completed an action, which extends the confirmatory tail phase of an action. This is the key difference between normal and pathological rituals, Prof. Eilam says.

Ultimately the study found evidence that repetitive behavior can be a good thing because it can serve as a way to relieve stress. Playing videogames likely has the same relaxing and calming effect as fishing or your grandmother knitting a sweater, if the research is to be believed.

Source: Medical News Today


 
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Should ‘sexism’ factor into a video game’s rating?:

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Andrew EisenNo but it is defaulting to a very low volume. Not muted though.11/20/2014 - 10:14pm
MaskedPixelanteIs anyone else experiencing this weird Youtube glitch where, no matter what you had the volume set at last time, it defaults to muted no matter what?11/20/2014 - 10:07pm
MechaTama31What was wrong with Remember Me? I liked that one... >.>11/20/2014 - 8:50pm
AvalongodI tend to see the violence and sexism issues as different. Historically we know that the violence issue is overblown. But sexism is real. Better representations of women in games WILL happen.11/20/2014 - 7:35pm
Andrew EisenAnd unless I completely missed it, there's nothing in there about "how Pokemon in general is sexist but you gotta look deep for it."11/20/2014 - 5:10pm
Andrew EisenSeriously, you're upset, irked and fearful over an opinion piece that suggests the Pokemon demo would be better with more options and a better-written female character? SERIOUSLY?!11/20/2014 - 5:07pm
MaskedPixelantehttp://gamasutra.com/blogs/PugetAlain/20141118/230420/Nearly_Ripped_off_to_death_by_a_publisher__Get_better_by_yourself_and_wait_for_justice_Maybe.php Topware screws over an indie studio because they can.11/20/2014 - 5:01pm
Andrew EisenAre you SURE you provided the right link?11/20/2014 - 4:59pm
prh99And yeah that sucks, especially when bonuses are tied to it, but that is more a problem with crappy publisher policies and scoring in general than any discussion on what may or may no be sexism in games.11/20/2014 - 4:59pm
prh99But no one is on their legislative high horse or on the litigation war path, for that matter. The biggest effect is that a reviewer might give it a lower score and drag down their meta critic ranking.11/20/2014 - 4:56pm
Wonderkarpyup11/20/2014 - 4:51pm
Andrew EisenOh for crying out loud. Wonderkarp, I apologize for how rude this question is but seriously, did you actually read that article?11/20/2014 - 4:47pm
Wonderkarpits a stigma. people in power hear this crap and start getting on their legislative high horse. but I feel like we've already paid too much attention too a demo.11/20/2014 - 4:46pm
Andrew EisenHarm gaming how?11/20/2014 - 4:35pm
Wonderkarpcause it gets parroted around and is used by people to harm gaming like Jack Thompsons did with Violence. http://www.themarysue.com/pokemon-oras-sexism/ here's the article.11/20/2014 - 4:28pm
Andrew EisenNo idea why such an opinion would upset or irk you so I'd be interested in reading it. Got a link?11/20/2014 - 4:13pm
Wonderkarplook deep for it....reaching much. those kinds of people are what urk me.11/20/2014 - 4:07pm
WonderkarpI got upset the other day when a known feminist blog wrote a large article on how the demo to Pokemon Omega Ruby was Sexist cause you couldnt play as a girl. It was a Demo....who cares? but they went off on how Pokemon in general is sexist but you gotta11/20/2014 - 4:06pm
Andrew EisenHere's the panel that Sarkeesian quote from earlier comes from. Amazing what the proper context does, isn't it? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e0qxtKz2vZw11/20/2014 - 3:32pm
NeenekoSomething to keep in mind, we tend to look at physics as 'hard', but math and physics are trivial compared to soc/psych (I have worked in both), but FEELS like it should be simplier.11/20/2014 - 3:17pm
 

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