We investigated to see if motion artifacts (MA) occurring in magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) are related to prescan anxiety measures and test the feasibility of identifying patients at risk for the development of MA before scanning. Furthermore, to determine a possible influence of constructional differences between a 1.5 and a 0.5 tesla scanner on the frequency of MA. Two hundred and ninety-seven first time MRI patients were surveyed before and after imaging with anxiety and attitude questionnaires. Frequency and impact on diagnostic quality of MA were documented. 12.8% of all scans showed MA not related to normal body pulsations. In 6.4% the diagnostic quality was impaired. Constructional differences did not influence the frequency of MA. Also, anxiety as determined with the most common anxiety measuring instrument was not related to the development of MA. Concern about the technical apparatus identified 70.6% of all individuals developing MA. Patients at risk for the development of MA can be identified prior to scanning. It seems necessary to further develop reliable methods to detect them and to evaluate strategies to prevent MA.