The "cognitive speed-bump'': How world champion Tetris players trade milliseconds for seconds

AbstractTetris is a fast-paced puzzle solving game that requires players to rapidly maneuver falling blocks to clear rows and score points. Skilled Tetris players learn to execute moves in the game very quickly to keep up with the increasing time pressure. But world champion Tetris players employ more complex strategies that save precious milliseconds that enable them to reach even higher levels of play. Such strategies show mastery of the game’s event structure, but also come with a startup cost— a ``cognitive speed bump''— wherein they must momentarily decide whether to rotate a block left or right, even for scenarios where the distinction is not meaningful for performance. We present data showing both the world champions’ superior overall action times, but also a preliminary ``speed bump'' that is consistent both within and between world champion players. Potential underlying memory structures are explored, and implications are discussed for both the Soft Constraints Hypothesis and the relationship between Hick’s Law and expertise.

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