VR for Sport Anxiety


The goal of this project is to determine whether a VR application can trigger anxiety in certain individuals. Additional goals include: (1) determining how VR-specific conditions (field of regard and simulation fidelity) compare to known anxiety triggers (i.e. lack of control, uncertainty, and negative reinforcement), (2) determining the relationship between an individual's trait anxiety and the anxiety experienced in the system, (3) determining the relationship between an individual's competitive background and the anxiety experienced in the system, and (4) determing the best metrics for measuring anxiety in VR athletic application.


In the applications, users defend against penalty kicks in a simulated soccer environment. Users stand on the goal line, and step to either the left or right after they recognize the direction of the kick. If they step in the correct direction and in the correct timeframe it is considered a save. Stepping in the wrong direction, or moving too early or too late is considered a miss. The application was designed for use with the VisCube (a 4-walled surrounding display), where the user's position is tracked with a IS-900 wireless tracker mounted on a pair of stereo glasses.

Experimental Design

The experiment features a 2x2x2 within-subject design, with indepent variables of field of regard (FOR), simulation fidelity (SF), and anxiety triggers. The levels for each of the independent variables are as follows:

Independent Variables Levels
Field of regard (FOR) 90°, 270°
Simulation fidelity (SF) LOW, HIGH
Anxiety triggers PRESENT, ABSENT


The following metrics are used in the experiment:

  • Background survey
  • Performance
  • Reaction time
  • Heart rate (HR)
  • Heart rate variability (HRV)
  • Galvanic skin response (GSR)
  • State-trait inventory for cognitive and somatic anxiety (STICSA)
  • Competitive state anxiety inventory (CSAI)
  • Post-experiment interview

Users complete the STICSA (trait), STICSA (state), and CSAI before the experiment begins, and complete the STICSA (state) and CSAI after completing each condition. Performance, reaction time, HR, HRV, and GSR are recorded during the entire experiment. Users face 15 penalty kicks in each of the conditions, and at the end of the experiment are asked several interview questions regarding their motivation, the emotions they experienced throughou the study, and their preferred conditions.