Theses and Dissertations

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name



Instructional Design and Development

Committee Chair

James P. Van Haneghan


Lu Ding, Gurupreet Khalsa, Jack Shelley-Tremblay


As virtual reality (VR) becomes more commonly used in education, it is important to understand the technology’s weakness and mitigate any potential negative effects on student success. One adverse side-effect of VR use is simulation-induced motion sickness, known in the context of VR as VR sickness. Previous research by Howard and Van Zandt (2021) found that possessing a phobia had a significant positive correlation with VR sickness, but only if the phobia is triggered by the simulation, suggesting that symptoms are actually connected to the anxiety the phobia induces. This study explored the hypothesized correlation between anxiety and VR sickness, and added to the existing literature by seeking a deeper understanding of a phenomenon closely tied to the success of VR implementation. Sixty-five undergraduate university students used an Oculus Quest to view two 360 YouTube videos: one with low motion intensity and one with high motion intensity. Anxiety and VR sickness were measured before and after each video using a series of questionnaires; balance and heart rate were measured before, during, and after each video using a Wii Balance Board and BIOPAC MP36 system respectively. Statistical analysis comprised a series of three-way mixed ANOVAs testing for correlations between pre- and post-immersion trait anxiety, state anxiety, VR sickness, balance, and heart rate. I also ran two multiple regression models testing the ability of confounding variables (age, gender, ethnicity, technological xvi experience, prior VR experience, and motion sickness susceptibility) along with state and trait anxiety to predict post-immersion VR sickness for each video. The results showed the effects of state and trait anxiety can replicate the effects VR sickness outside of VR exposure, creating the risk of a false positive with regard to VR sickness. However, genuine VR sickness does also become more severe in the presence of heightened state anxiety. There is reason to suspect this correlation remains in place across levels of motion intensity in VR content and across the general population. The study also offers insight into best practices for implementing VR as an instructional method. Instructors implementing VR should take note of students exhibiting signs of very high anxiety and remain mindful of the possibility that those students could have a harder time completing VR tasks than students with low anxiety.