Why does standing in front of an elevator give me vertigo?
January 4, 2007 3:41 PM   Subscribe

Why does standing in front of an elevator give me weird vertigo? It's as though the floor were moving up and down slightly. Is it just my brain anticipating the elevator motion and landing? Or am I sensing vibrations in the floor? Or some sort of air pressure thing? Or something about a vertical line dominating my field of vision? It is really dizzying and odd. Am I insane?
posted by unknowncommand to Grab Bag (16 answers total)
Response by poster: By "landing" I mean when the elevator lands on a floor, and the little jolt that involves.
posted by unknowncommand at 3:43 PM on January 4, 2007

You don't mean standing inside an elevator, right? You mean standing outside the elevator, in front of it as though you were waiting for it?
posted by Brittanie at 3:47 PM on January 4, 2007

If you're really curious about this you need to experiment. Do you get this, for example, when waiting for those older elevators with gates that must be pulled aside?
posted by vacapinta at 3:50 PM on January 4, 2007

I don't know what causes it, but I get it too, standing outside the elevator. My theory is that it's related to changes in the air pressure, caused by the movement of the elevator cab.
posted by gingerbeer at 3:57 PM on January 4, 2007

You may have a balance disorder.
posted by Effigy2000 at 4:53 PM on January 4, 2007

If it happens when you're looking at the elevator doors, it could be that you're seeing the movement of light (as the car and cables move behind the closed door) through the teeny vertical gap between the doors... If your brain senses that movement, even if you don't consciously notice it, it could definitely make you feel off-balance.
posted by amyms at 5:11 PM on January 4, 2007

If you can see motion and your brain doesn't necessarily recognise the context, it may interpret it that you're in motion in the opposite direction. It's like when you're sitting in a train and the train next to you moves: it seems initially that the train you're in is moving.
posted by polyglot at 5:53 PM on January 4, 2007

A minor form of this happens to me too. I always figured it was anticipation of the movement that will happen in the elevator. I get the same feeling in a more horizontal setting when (non-relativistically speaking) the subway I'm in is at rest and the one next to us is just starting to move.
posted by ontic at 6:11 PM on January 4, 2007

I get this all the time. My friend does, too. We joke about it... cheap high and all that.
posted by Corky at 7:03 PM on January 4, 2007

Do you also get dizzy when you're watching a train go by? I'd suggest what Effigy2000 said.
posted by IndigoRain at 12:01 AM on January 5, 2007

I always figured it was anticipation of the movement that will happen in the elevator.

I think ontic is right. After you've experienced an elevator ride a few times, I think your brain comes up with a program to help you stay in equilibrium as the elevator comes to a stop or starts moving (I'd guess dropping is most disturbing); when it receives the right visual cue, it starts the program, but when the anticipated elevator motion then does not occur (because you are standing outside the elevator), you experience the onset of the program as a feeling of vertigo.

If this is the case, a designer might be able to prevent the effect by making the inside of the elevator doors very different in appearance from the outside in order to inhibit conditioned responses of this kind.
posted by jamjam at 8:54 AM on January 5, 2007

I've noticed this before. I'm anxiety-prone and elevators make me nervous, so I attribute it to a slight adrenaline rush.
posted by treepour at 9:49 AM on January 5, 2007

Response by poster: Ooh, these are exciting leads. Hopefully today I'll get a chance to try standing outside one of the consistently disorienting elevators with my eyes closed and see if that makes a difference. I haven't noticed it when the trains go by, though that might not be as weird because there isn't anything so solid (as the floor) to prevent me from moving. I also haven't tried an old-fashioned elevator yet, but I will see if I can find any. Thanks for the suggestions; I will post updates if you are interested.
posted by unknowncommand at 10:40 AM on January 5, 2007

Any further data?
posted by ontic at 5:12 PM on January 8, 2007

Response by poster: Meh, conditions have not been ideal for further testing. Stupid uncooperative elevators. I'm still at it, though, no matter how pathetic that might sound...
posted by unknowncommand at 3:02 PM on January 12, 2007

Response by poster: Okay, so I've tested this on approximately 10 elevators. It is not based on moving lights, or other visual effects. It is either psychological or because the floor is actually shaking subtley. I'm leaning toward the latter, because it's not all elevators. So that's my update. TRULY CAPTIVATING.
posted by unknowncommand at 6:11 AM on January 24, 2007

« Older A Very Strange Christmas   |   Why am I suddenly getting hundreds of... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.