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Prediction and Prevention of Simulator Sickness: An Examination of Individual Differences, Participant Behaviours, and Controlled Interventions

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Title: Prediction and Prevention of Simulator Sickness: An Examination of Individual Differences, Participant Behaviours, and Controlled Interventions
Author: Reed Jones, James
Department: Department of Psychology
Program: Psychology
Advisor: Trick, Lana
Abstract: Fixed-base driving simulators are commonplace in research and training. Simulators provide safe and controlled environments to train users on vehicle and device operation, to evaluate the safety of devices and controls, and to conduct research on driving and driving behaviours. One drawback to simulators is simulator sickness. As with motion sickness, simulator sickness can cause nausea, but additionally it has symptoms such as headache and eyestrain. Simulator sickness is a problem for multiple reasons: it can skew experimental results, it can waste participants’ and experimenter’s time, and it can limit testable populations. In addition, participants may modify their behaviour to avoid sickness, affecting experimental results or impeding learning. While sickness can reduce over multiple exposures, it is not known if any observable behaviours accompany these reductions. It is also not known why there are such marked individual differences in susceptibility. To test for behaviours that could be responsible for reducing sickness, I examined participants across two sessions in a fixed-base driving simulator. I found that gaze behaviour (eye and head movements) changed along with sickness. To determine the cause for this finding I instructed participants (pre-drive) to fixate their gaze during the curves of a simulated drive. This gaze modification was effective in reducing sickness during a first-time experience in the simulator, supporting a causal link. Next, I attempted to replace the missing vestibular input in a fixed-base simulator, so that the visual and vestibular perceptions of motion matched. This experiment showed that by providing vestibular stimulation appropriate or opposite of what would occur in the real world reduced sickness. This provided support for the theory that distracting stimulation (electrical in this case) could reduce attention to visual motion cues and therefore reduce conflict, a novel finding for simulator sickness research. Finally, I tested for any correlations between individual differences and sickness. I found that history of motion sickness and current illness both correlated with sickness, potentially useful as a pre-screening tool. In addition, driving behaviours such as speed, braking, and acceleration all correlated with sickness, showing that how a person behaves in a simulation could also contribute to sickness.
Date: 2011-12
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