The impact of different perceptual cues on fear and presence in virtual reality

Stud Health Technol Inform. 2013:191:75-9.


The impact of perceptual visual cues on spider phobic reactions has been thoroughly investigated over the last years. Although the fear of being touched by a spider is part of the clinical picture of spider phobia, findings on the impact of tactile fear cues are rare. This study uses virtual reality to selectively apply visual and tactile fear cues. Self-reported fear and the experience of presence in VR were measured in 20 phobic and 20 non-phobic participants. All participants were repeatedly exposed to visual cues, tactile cues, the combination of both and no fear relevant perceptual cues. Participants were exposed in each condition for five times in random order. Results show that tactile fear cues have the power to trigger fear independent of visual cues. Participants experienced highest levels of presence in the combined and the control condition. Presence may not only be seen in association with the emotional impact of specific cues in VR but also appears to depend on the comparability of a virtual environment to a real life situation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Cues*
  • Fear / psychology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Orientation
  • Phobic Disorders / physiopathology*
  • Phobic Disorders / psychology*
  • Photic Stimulation / methods*
  • User-Computer Interface*
  • Visual Perception*
  • Young Adult