Here's an intriguing idea: Exorcising unhealthy habits in a virtual world could translate into results in the physical world.
A recent anti-smoking study tested this theory by enrolling 91 smokers in an anti-smoking support group and instructing half the participants to crushed computer-simulated cigarettes while the rest grasped computer-simulated balls. They found:
After 12 weeks, 15 percent of the participants who crushed virtual cigarettes stopped smoking, while only 2 percent of those who grasped virtual balls reported abstinence.
Additional studies will be necessary to fully understand what led to participants' success in quitting smoking but, in evaluating the current data, researchers said plausible explanations include self-efficacy, motivation and learning.