NCBI ROFL: Study finds that watching 3D movies makes 54.8% of people want to vomit.

By ncbi rofl | February 18, 2013 12:00 pm

Are There Side Effects to Watching 3D Movies? A Prospective Crossover Observational Study on Visually Induced Motion Sickness


The increasing popularity of commercial movies showing three dimensional (3D) images has raised concern about possible adverse side effects on viewers.

Methods and Findings

A prospective carryover observational study was designed to assess the effect of exposure (3D vs. 2D movie views) on self reported symptoms of visually induced motion sickness. The standardized Simulator Sickness Questionnaire (SSQ) was self administered on a convenience sample of 497 healthy adult volunteers before and after the vision of 2D and 3D movies. Viewers reporting some sickness (SSQ total score>15) were 54.8% of the total sample after the 3D movie compared to 14.1% of total sample after the 2D movie. Symptom intensity was 8.8 times higher than baseline after exposure to 3D movie (compared to the increase of 2 times the baseline after the 2D movie). Multivariate modeling of visually induced motion sickness as response variables pointed out the significant effects of exposure to 3D movie, history of car sickness and headache, after adjusting for gender, age, self reported anxiety level, attention to the movie and show time.


Seeing 3D movies can increase rating of symptoms of nausea, oculomotor and disorientation, especially in women with susceptible visual-vestibular system. Confirmatory studies which include examination of clinical signs on viewers are needed to pursue a conclusive evidence on the 3D vision effects on spectators.”

Photo: flickr/cleong

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  • Rob Hooft

    There is something wrong here… two things, in fact: I can not understand how they got to 54.8%, and I don’t believe this thing has 3 significant digits……

    54.8% of 497 subjects, how many are those? 272/497 = 0.54728… and 273/497 = 0.54929… No ratio gets to 54.8%. If we assume they counted 272 instances of nausea, the expected variance (Poisson distribution) is 272 too, making for a standard deviation of 16. Hence, the number to be reported should have been “roughly between 51.5% and 57.9%”, and even then there is a 32% chance that the “real” number is outside of this interval.

    • Ben Wren

      Reading the “statistical analysis” section – it states that 46 results for the 3D movies were ignored, for some statistical reason (which I am not expert enough to comment on), but that means that only 451 of the 497 were counted in the calculation of that number, and 247 out of 451 is 54.8% (54.767). I’m sure you’re probably right that that degree of precision isn’t appropriate here, but at least that explains where the number came from!

  • James Krummel

    My question is why do the study anyway? They’re going to keep making 3D movies anyway as long as people pay to watch. I don’t care for 3D myself, but everyone has a right to their opinion. Those who get sick watching one shouldn’t do it, but to each their own you know.

    • imokyrok

      It would seem like useful information to know you may be potentially halving your audience surely. Worth considering as a factor in the financial pros and cons. I’m one of those people who can’t watch 3d but then I’m prone to motion sickness generally. I’m surprised that such a large proportion of the study is also negatively impacted.

  • Dylan Palmer

    Not for me. A couple times it has made my eyes uncomfortable but never nausea.

    • MyPartyRightOrWrong

      Well, in that case we’re throwing out the entire analysis and starting from scratch.
      – Discovery Statistical Team

  • Daniel Garrett Irwin

    I wonder if a 2D IMAX showing makes people sick…

  • UFA

    So it was the same relatively small group shown both movies? There wasn’t actually a control group? And it was only a self-report survey? What order were they shown the movies in? Was it the same movie in 2D and 3D? If not, did the movies at least have similar content, regardless of which format they were in? Did the participants know what the study was about, and if so, couldn’t that have led to a placebo effect?

    Sorry, this is not very convincing. Obviously some people have issues with 3D movies, but this study and number is pretty dubious (to say nothing of Rob’s points).

    • Dan

      If it is a published study, things such as good experimental design should be assumed. Counter-weighting the study to randomly assign half to see the 2D movie first and the other half the 3D movie is standard procedure. The content of the movie is something that should be considered, but wasn’t in the article.

      In this kind of study, with self-reported results, knowing what the study is about don’t significantly affect the results. There might be a couple people that rate the 3D movie as more nauseating just because they think it is expected; however, any half-decent questionnaire will have more than a single question. That way, it is not obvious what the experimenter is studying and can ameliorate some of these issues.

      The statistical analysis is such that you can still draw the conclusion that there is a significant difference between 2D and 3D movies when rated on nausea. The numbers are actually not important, all they show is that more people experience nausea watching 3D movies.

  • Randy Garrison

    if 3d bothers you physically,..then somethins wrong with you. ..nausea/vomiting? thats bull….i Love 3d movies..but only if their good movies. personally i wish more movies were 3d…when done right, it can be amazing

    • InnerCynic

      My eyes are such that I don’t get any benefit from 3D. Just doesn’t work. So does that mean something is “wrong” with me? Let’s be honest here… 3D is a gimmicky way to pimp movies. And the idea of wearing a second set of glasses to get some sort of “benefit” for these gimmicks is pathetic. If the story can’t carry the tale and needs 3D to draw you in then it’s a weak sister of a movie. Some PC games oddly enough make me nauseous as hell, case in point Half Life 2, while others, like Unreal, don’t do a damn thing. Why? I haven’t a clue.

    • Dan

      3D works on the principle of Binocular Disparity. Look it up. If your eyes are further apart or closer together than the “average” that they calibrate the movie to, then you will experience disorientation and usually motion sickness.

  • Kunal Moorjani

    You know what makes me puke? The prices of these 3D movies!

  • MichaelRWorthingon

    so 14% of people feel like they need to puke after seeing a regular 2D movie…nonsense.

    • Coenagrion Lacedella

      how do you get this number from? In table I can see that 14% of people have nausea score 1 (in a scale between 0- none and 3 – worst) after 2D. Score 1 means almost no nausea at all.


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