Control of a Virtual Vehicle Influences Postural Activity and Motion Sickness

Xiao Dong, Ken Yoshida, Thomas Stoffregen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

77 Scopus citations


Everyday experience suggests that drivers are less susceptible to motion sickness than passengers. In the context of inertial motion (i.e., physical displacement), this effect has been confirmed in laboratory research using whole body motion devices. We asked whether a similar effect would occur in the context of simulated vehicles in a visual virtual environment. We used a yoked control design in which one member of each pair of participants played a driving video game (i.e., drove a virtual automobile). A recording of that performance was viewed (in a separate session) by the other member of the pair. Thus, the two members of each pair were exposed to identical visual motion stimuli, but the risk of behavioral contagion was minimized. Participants who drove the virtual vehicle (drivers) were less likely to report motion sickness than participants who viewed game recordings (passengers). Data on head and torso movement revealed that drivers tended to move more than passengers, and that the movements of drivers were more predictable than the movements of passengers. Before the onset of subjective symptoms of motion sickness movement differed between participants who (later) reported motion sickness and those who did not, consistent with a prediction of the postural instability theory of motion sickness. The results confirm that control is an important factor in the etiology of motion sickness and extend this finding to the control of noninertial virtual vehicles.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)128-138
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Experimental Psychology: Applied
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 2011


  • Motion sickness
  • Posture
  • Video games


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