Restricting the Distribution of Visual Attention Reduces Cybersickness

Poster Presentation 43.468: Monday, May 22, 2023, 8:30 am – 12:30 pm, Pavilion
Session: Multisensory Processing: Audio-visual, visuo-vestibular

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Sai Ho Yip1, Jeffrey Saunders1; 1University of Hong Kong

It has been suggested that the allocation of visual attention could influence cybersickness (i.e. motion sickness in virtual reality), but this has not been experimentally tested. Wei et al. (2018) found a negative correlation between self-reported motion sickness susceptibility and attention to the periphery during vection. Based on this finding, they proposed that reallocating more attention to the peripheral visual field could reduce cybersickness. On the other hand, previous studies have demonstrated that restricting the field-of-view (FOV) decreases cybersickness, suggesting that limiting the attention to peripheral motion cues would reduce cybersickness. We tested these possibilities experimentally by encouraging attention to the central or peripheral visual field during VR exposure. We also measured attention to the visual periphery during vection and self-reported motion sickness susceptibility to replicate Wei et al. (2018). Two preregistered experiments were conducted. In Experiment 1, we used task-relevant cues to manipulate visual attention. Visual cues were provided in either the central or peripheral visual field during virtual navigation. We found no difference in cybersickness across conditions. However, it is possible that the task-relevant cues had only transient effects and did not manipulate sustained attention. In Experiment 2, sustained attention to the visual center or periphery was manipulated with a dot-probe task during passive VR exposure. We found that subjects experienced greater cybersickness in the condition that required sustained attention to the periphery. In both experiments, we did not observe any correlation between baseline attention allocation tendency during vection and self-reported motion sickness susceptibility. Our results demonstrate that maintaining a narrow distribution of visual attention can be an effective intervention for cybersickness. We suggest that visual attention reallocation and FOV restriction reduce cybersickness in the same way, by limiting the processing of peripheral motion signals.

Acknowledgements: This research was supported by a grant from the Hong Kong Research Grants Council (GRF 17407914).