Cybersickness Causes

Cybersickness, also known as Virtual Reality Sickness is like a visually induced motion sickness. Cybersickness is caused by a visually induced perception of motion and a lack of input from the ears, joints, and muscles that is consistent with that perceived motion. If you consider your typical movement in the world, all your senses are sending your brain consistent input about motion. In a virtual reality or 3D movie situation your eyes are reporting movement while your other senses are not 1. This is the cause of Cybersickness.

There are several theories as to why the brain causes us physical discomfort due to Cybersickness. Including the following:

  • The Poison Theory: Some poisons cause a mismatch between the input from multiple senses and so the sickness is an inherited reaction to the condition. 2 “When your sense of motion doesn’t match up to your sense of sight, your brain may be reacting as if it’s been poisoned. The reaction is to eliminate the poison by either vomiting or having diarrhea. It’s because of evolutionary hardwiring in the brain that leads the brain to mistakenly react as if poisoning has occurred,” says experimental psychologists Frederick Bonato .
  • The Sensory Conflict Theory: The mismatch in inputs from the senses cause a negative physical reaction.
  • The Postural Instability Theory: The theory that a critical behavior of humans is to minimize movement relative to the environment and that a failure to do so results in a negative reaction.  “The postural instability theory states that the cause of motion sickness and cybersickness is prolonged postural instability,” writes Mr LaViola. 3

There are many factors that contribute to the susceptibility for Cybersickness, including:

There are also many factors that contribute to the intensity or severity of Cybersickness symptoms, including:

  • visual refresh rate 5
  • user position 6
  • mismatched motion 7
  • field of view 8
  • motion parallax 9
  • viewing angle 10


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  1. “Virtual Reality Sickness.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 22 July 2014. Web. 08 Dec. 2016.
  2. O’Brien, M., & Baime, J. (2009, June 19). Cyber sickness (just sickening) – science nation. Retrieved December 9, 2016, from NSF,
  3. LaViola, J. J. Jr (2000). “A discussion of cybersickness in virtual environments”. ACM SIGCHI Bulletin.
  4. “Virtual Reality Sickness.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 22 July 2014. Web. 08 Dec. 2016.
  5. Kolasinski, E. M. “Simulator sickness in virtual environments (ARI 1027)”. U.S. Army Research Institute for the Behavioral and Social Sciences. Retrieved 22 July 2014.
  6. Merhi, O.; Faugloire, E.; Flanagan, M.; Stoffregen, T. A. (2007). “Motion sickness, video games, and head-mounted displays”. Human Factors. 49: 920–934.
  7. Groen, E.; Bos, J. (2008). “Simulator sickness depends on frequency of the simulator motion mismatch: An observation”. Presence. 17 (6): 584–593.
  8. Lin, J. J.; Duh, H. B. L.; Parker, D. E.; Abi-Rached, H.; Furness, T. A. (2002). “Effects of field of view on presence, enjoyment, memory, and simulator sickness in a virtual environment”. Proceedings of IEEE Virtual Reality. 9: 164–171.
  9. Jinjakam, C.; Kazuhiko, H. (2011). “Study on parallax affect on simulator sickness in one-screen and three-screen immersive virtual environment”.
  10. Ruddle, R. A. (2004). “The effect of environment characteristics and user interaction on levels of virtual environment sickness”. Proceedings of IEEE Virtual Reality. 11: 141–148.


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