Postural effects of the horizon on land and at sea

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

35 Scopus citations


Motion of a ship at sea creates challenges for control of the body. Anecdotal reports suggest that the body can be stabilized by standing on the open deck and looking at the horizon. This advice contrasts with land-based findings that looking at the horizon leads to increased body sway. We measured standing body sway in experienced maritime crew members on land and at sea. On land, body sway was greater when subjects looked at the horizon than when they did not-the classical effect. At sea, body sway was greater in a closed cabin than on the open deck. On the open deck, body sway when looking at the horizon was reduced relative to sway when looking at middistance targets on the ship. The results are consistent with centuries of anecdotal advice given to sea travelers and raise new questions about the referents that are used for the control of standing posture.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)118-124
Number of pages7
JournalPsychological Science
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2011


  • human performance at sea
  • optic flow
  • posture
  • vision


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