Washington, Jan 27 – Everybody who has been aboard a ship has heard the advice — if you feel unsteady, look at the horizon. Researchers have found truth in that advice — people aboard a ship are steadier if they fix their eyes on the horizon.
Thomas A. Stoffregen of the University of Minnesota has been studying ‘body sway’ — how much people rock back and forth in different situations for decades, and what this has to do with motion sickness, the journal Psychological Science reports.
Stoffregen and his co-authors, Anthony M. Mayo and Michael G. Wade, wanted to know how this changes when you’re standing on a ship, according to a Minnesota statement.
In this study, he rode on the research vessel Atlantis as it went between two points in the Gulf of California.
The study compared the same people standing on dry land — a dock in Guaymas, Mexico — and aboard the ship.
In each experiment, a crew member stood comfortably on a force plate and focused on a target — either something about 16 inches in front of him, or a far-off point; a distant mountain when standing on land or the horizon when standing on the ship.
On land, people were steadier when they looked at the close-up target and swayed more when they looked far away. On the ship, however, they were steadier when they looked at the horizon.
‘This is actually counterintuitive. When you are standing on a ship, you need to adjust to the ship’s movement, or you’ll fall over,’ Stoffregen says.
He thinks it may help stabilize the body by helping to differentiate between sources of movement — the natural movement coming from the body and the movement caused by the ship.