Betty Mohler

Alumni of the Department Human Perception, Cognition and Action
Alumni of the Research Group Body and Space perception

Main Focus

Starting January 1st, 2014 I have a Minerva funded independent research group see:

Additional Funding Resources:

  • 2015-2018 Finding Perspective Volkswagen Foundation, Principal Investigators: Dr. Adrian Alsmith, Dr. Matthew Longo, Dr. Christophe Lopez, Dr. Betty Mohler and Dr. Hong Yu Wong (MPG: €93.300)
  • 2014-2016 CIN Pool Project 2014-03: Investigating Body Representation Distortions in Patient Populations using Biometric Self-Avatars in Virtual Reality (€59,540). Principal Investigators: Michael Black, Betty Mohler, Hong Yu Wong, Hans-Otto Karnath and Stephan Zipfel.
  • 2013 Alexander von Humboldt Foundation 6 Month Fellowship for Visiting Distinguished Professor Jeanine Stefannuci, Role: Host ~€20.000
  • 2012-2015 European Union Project FP7 Project: VR-HYPERSPACE, The innovative use of Virtual Reality to increase Human comfort bY changing the PERception of Self and sPACE, Role: MPG Scientific Coordinator, Entire Consortium Funding: €4.59Million MPG Funding: €625.150
  • 2011-2014 CIN Pool Project 2011-16: How does visual embodiment influence perception and action? €66,744, Hong Yu Wong, Sally Linkenauger, Betty Mohler

    Alumni Members:

    Research Scientist: now Associate Professor, Université Pierre Mendès-France, now Research Scientist at Toronto Rehab Center and Assistant Professor at University of Toronto, , now Assistant Professor at Simon Fraser University, , now Assistant Professor at Muroran Institute of Technology, Japan Visiting Professors: , University of Leeds, , University of California, Santa Barbara Technical Staff: , PhD Students: , now at University of Vechta Master Students: , now a PhD student at University of Freiburg, , , now a PhD student at the University of Bonn Visiting Students: , now a PhD student at Carnegie Mellon University, , PhD student at University of Utah, , Undergraduate student at Cardiff University, Kishore Rama Chandra, now a Master student at University of Michigan, , now a research assistant at Oregon Health & Sciences University, , Master student at Vanderbilt University

    Visual body influences perception: Seeing a virtual avatar in the virtual environment influences egocentric distance estimates. If this avatar is a self-animated avatar, egocentric distances are even more influenced (, Presence, 2010).  Eye-height influences egocentric space and dimension estimates in virtual environments (, APGV 2011).  Seeing a virtual character (self or other) impacts subsequent performance of common tasks in virtual environments (McManus, supervised by Mohler, APGV 2011).  The size of visual body parts (hands/arm length) influences size and distance estimates in virtual worlds (, ECVP and VSS 2011).  These results taken together argue that the body plays a central role in the perception of our surrounding environment.

    The role of visual body information in human interaction and communication: Current state-of-the-art in motion capture tracking enables scientists to animate avatars with multiple participant’s body motion in real time. We have used this technology to conduct experiments investigating the role of body language on successful communication and interaction. We have found that body language is important for successful communication in a word-communication task and that both the speaker’s and the listener’s body movements (as seen through animated avatars) impacts communication (, CASA, 2010).  We have further shown that people move more if they are wearing the xSens Moven suits and using large-screen projection technology as compared to when they are wearing Vicon rigid body tracking objects and viewing the virtual world in a low field-of-view head-mounted display (Dodds, PLoS One 2011). We have also investigated the role of the visual information of the interaction partner on task performance in a table-tennis paradigm. We have shown that the social context (competitive or cooperative) mediates the use of visual information about the interaction partner (, EBR 2011). We have also used motion capture technology to investigate the use of VR for medical training ( CASA, 2011) and the emotional expression of body language (, IMRF, 2011).

    Self-motion perception while walking and reaching: We have conducted studies to investigate the sensory contribution to encoding walking velocity (visual, vestibular, proprioceptive, efferent copy) and have found a new measure for self-motion perception: active pointing trajectory (Campos, PLoS One, 2009). We have further demonstrated that imagined walking is different than physical walking, in that participants point in a way that indicates that they are not simulating all of their sensory information for walking when imagining walking. Additionally, we have investigated human’s ability to detect when they are walking on a curved path and the influence of walking speed on curvature sensitivity. We have found that walking speed does influence curvature sensitivity, showing that when walking at a slower velocity people are less sensitive to walking on a curve. We exploit this perceptual knowledge and designed a dynamic gain controller for redirected walking, which enables participants to walk unaided in a virtual city (, IEEE-VR 2011).  Finally, we have investigated motor learning in for reaching given different viewpoints and different visual realism of the arm and environment and make suggestions for the use of VR for rehabilitation and motor-learning experiments (Shomaker, , Buelthoff & , EBR 2011).

    Spatial perception and cognition: Visiting Prof. Roy Ruddle investigated the role of body-based information on spatial navigation. He found that walking improves humans cognitive map in large virtual worlds (, ToCHI 2011) and he investigated the role of body-based information and landmarks on route knowledge (Ruddle, Memory & Cognition 2011).  We have also found that pointing to locations within one’s city of residence relies on a single north-oriented reference frame likely learned from maps [Frankenstein, PsychScience in press]. Without maps available navigators primarily memorize a novel space as local interconnected reference frames corresponding to a corridor or street [ 2010 and Hensen, supervised by Meilinger 2011 Cog Sci,]. Consistent with these results, entorhinal grid cells in humans quickly remap their grid orientation after changing the surrounding environment (Pape, supervised by Melinger SfN 2011). Additionally, we have found that egocentric distance estimates are also underestimated in large screen displays, and are influenced by the distance to the screen (Alexandrova, APGV 2010).

    Curriculum Vitae


    Max Planck Institute for Biological Cybernetics

    Spemannstrasse 44

    72076 Tübingen, Germany



    My research focuses on using and improving virtual reality technology by scientifically exploring human perception and action. Specifically, I investigate the impact that the visual body has on subsequent actions. I have investigated human adaptation of complex task performance, human perception of self-motion and human perception of space.  My research group, Perception & Action in Virtual Environments (PAVE), explores the perception of self, the influence of the visual body on actions and learning in virtual environments. We conduct our research by animating and manipulating virtual human characters (avatars).  Using avatars we can systematically explore the influence of visual information about the body (size, shape, identity) on human behavior, such as space perception, object interaction, communication and decision making.  Additionally, we are also collaborating with a university hospital to develop applications for our research findings, such as medical training simulations and virtual reality rehabilitation. We publish our novel research results both to the best virtual reality conferences and journals (i.e. IEEE-VR 2011; Presence: Teleoperators and Virtual Environments; and IEEE Computer & Graphics) and leading international psychology journals (Psych Science; Experimental Brain Research; and Transactions on Applied Perception). Additionally, I have secured funding for my group and department through the European Union Projects under FP7 as well as through attracting top scientists from international universities and funding agencies.


    Ph.D., Computer Science, University of Utah, Salt Lake City, UT, August 2007

    B.S., Computer Science, Millersville University, Millersville, PA, May, 2001


    Native Language: English

    Second Language: German, Level C-1


    2011-December, 31st 2012 Max Planck Institute Fellowship for Betty Mohler

    2011-2014 European Union Project VR-HYPERSPACE, The innovative use of Virtual Reality to

    increase Human comfort bY changing the PERception of Self and sPACE, Coordinator, Mirabelle D’Cruz, University of Nottingham, Principle Investigator for MPG: Betty Mohler Funds: 1 Post-doctoral Research Scientist and 1 PhD student

    2010-2014 European Union Project myCopter, Enabling Technologies for Personal Aerial

    Transportation Systems (co-writer), Coordinator: Prof. Heinrich Bülthoff

    Funds: 1 Post-doctoral Research Scientist and 1 PhD student

    2011-2013 Humboldt Fellowship for Sally Linkenauger,

    under Supervision of Betty Mohler & Prof. Bülthoff

    2011-2013 Swiss National Science Foundation Scholarship for Martin Dobricki,

    under  Supervision of Betty Mohler & Prof. Bülthoff

    2010 European Union Project POETICON, Principle Investigator for MPG, Christian Wallraven

    2007-2009 Max Planck Institute Fellowship for Betty Mohler

    2003-2006 National Science Foundation Project: Locomotion in Virtual Environments, Principle

    Investigators, William B. Thompson & Peter Shirley, University of Utah

    2001-2003 Distinguished Brown Fellowship for Betty Mohler, University of Utah


    01/2009-present Project Leader: Perception and Action in Virtual Environments (PAVE)

    Max Planck Institute for Biological Cybernetics, Tübingen, Germany,

    • Leads a group, which is part of Prof. Bülthoff’s department, of 5-7 scientists who investigate human perception and action while using and improving state-of-the-art virtual reality technology

    01/2007-01/2009 Post-doctoral Research Scientist

    Max Planck Institute for Biological Cybernetics, Tübingen, Germany,

    • Conducted research investigating locomotion and space perception in immersive virtual environments

    09/2001–12/2006 Graduate Student

    University of Utah, Salt Lake City, UT

    • Investigated visual control of locomotion by using a robotic treadmill and visual scenes with rich 3D content.
    • Investigated human adaptation to visual feedback in an immersive head-mounted display virtual environment

    01/1998–05/2001 Database Computer Programmer

    Lancaster Laboratories, Lancaster, PA

    • Generated forms from oracle databases using SQL for an environmental chemistry department

    09/1999–05/2001 Research Assistant

    Hershey Medical Center: Penn State University Hospital, Hershey, PA

    • Designed, programmed and obtained feedback from medical students on surgical simulators which I helped design and program
    • Research lead to a startup company: Verifi Techonologies



    2011-2013, Martin Dobricki, PhD in Pscyhology, University of Zurich, Switzerland

    2010-present, Dr. Sally Linkenauger, PhD in Cognitive Sciences, Uni. of Virginia, USA

    2009-present Trevor Dodds, PhD in Computer Science, University of Leeds, UK


    Ekaterina Volkova, Neural & Behavioural Graduate School, Expected Dec. 2013

    Markus Leyrer, Informatiks, Uni. Tübingen, Expected Dec. 2013

    Ivelina Alexandrova, Informatiks, Uni. . Tübingen, Expected Dec. 2013


    Markus Leyrer, Computer, Media & Design, Uni. Reutlingen, Jul. 2011

    Ivelina Alexandrova, Computer, Media & Design, Uni. Reutlingen, Feb. 2011

    Ekaterina Volkova, Computational Linguistics, Uni. Tübingen, Dec. 2010

    Christian Neth, Computer, Media & Design, Uni. Reutlingen, Aug. 2010

    Julia Frankenstein, Psychology, Uni. Tuebingen, Dec. 2008

    Laura Trutoiu, Mount Holyoke College, honors thesis committee member, Dec. 2007


    Conference Organization

    • Applied Perception in Graphics and Visualization 2008 Conference Co-Chair
    • Eurographics Virtual Environments 2008 Program Co-Chair

    Panel Organization

    • IEEE-Virtual reality 2011: Avatars in Virtual Environments
    • IEEE-Virtual Reality 2008: Virtual Locomotion: Getting around in Virtual Environments
    • TWK/SIGGRAPH sponsored Applied Perception in Graphics and Visualization 2007: Spatial Cognition - the Active Observer in Real and Simulated Spaces
    • Eurographics Virtual Environments 2007: Human Perception and Virtual Environments

    International Program Committee Member

    • IEEE-Virtual Reality 2009- present
    • Applied Perception in Graphics and Visualization 2009-present
    • ACM Virtual Reality Software and Technology 2009, 2010
    • IEEE Technical Committee on Robot Learning 2008-present
    • Eurographics 2008
    • JVRC- Joint Virtual Reality Conference, 2010-present

    Reviewer for International Peer Review Journals

    • ACM Transactions on Applied Perception
    • Experimental Brain Research
    • PLoSONE
    • Int. Journal of Human Computer Studies
    • Presence: Teleoperators and Virtual Environments
    • IEEE Computer & Graphics
    • Human Factors


    1) Mohler, B. J. , Creem-Regehr, S. H. , Thompson, W. B.  and  Bülthoff, H. H.: The Effect of Viewing a Self-Avatar on Distance Judgments in an HMD-Based Virtual Environment. Presence: Teleoperators and Virtual Environments (June, 2010)

    2) B. J. Mohler, W. B. Thompson, S. H. Creem-Regehr, H. L. Pick Jr., and W. H. Warren. Visual flow influences gait transitions and preferred walking speed, Experimental Brain Research, 181(2), 1-16, (2007)

    3) B. J. Mohler, W. B. Thompson, S. H. Creem-Regehr, P. Willemsen, H. L. Pick, Jr., and J. J. Rieser, Calibration due to visual motion in a treadmill-based virtual environment, ACM Transactions on Applied Perception, 4(1) 20-32 (2007)

    4) B.J. Mohler, The effect of feedback within a virtual environment on human distance perception and adaptation, Dissertation, University of Utah ( 2007)

    Go to Editor View