For the purposes of this question, "teleportation" refers to Star Trek style teleportation: a body is diassembled in one location, and reassembled with an exact (perfect) replica of the entire consciousness in another location. The process happens very quickly from the point of view of an external observer. From the point of view of the traveller, it is instantaneous. I am not interested in dealing with errors in teleportation where something goes wrong in the copy procedure.

What would be the psychological effects of such a journey on people? For example, if the average person's location changed drastically and instantaneously while their eyes were open, would they go insane from the cognitive dissonance* caused by the transition?

How would it be possible to deal with these effects? What training would the crew of a Star Trek style starship have to undergo to be able to smoothly teleport on a regular basis without losing the ability to function normally? What process would the subjects of an emergency rescue mission require if they had no prior training or even expectation that they would be teleported?

How do you solve the copied consciousness conundrum without killing anyone? is tangentially relevant to this question.

*I am not sure if this is the correct term.

  • $\begingroup$ How perfect of a teleport are we talking about? Can we truly say "the individual teleports to a new location," or do we have to worry about subtle errors in the teleportation affecting how the mind works? You are a Mad Physicist, after all. Little things like transient errors can simply be chalked up to "statistically insignificant" $\endgroup$
    – Cort Ammon
    Nov 23, 2016 at 19:24
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    $\begingroup$ "To avoid teleport madness, please keep your eyes closed". Or put a blindfold. Or keep the teleportation chambers in the dark while working. So far I have managed to abuse my TV remote channel controls without becoming crazy (but just in case I will not check with an actual psychiatrist).This remembers me of claims by doctors of the age of the first steam locomotives, about the negative effects for body and mind of travelling so "fast". $\endgroup$
    – SJuan76
    Nov 23, 2016 at 19:27
  • $\begingroup$ @CortAmmon. We will keep the madness to a minimum. I want to look at the no-glitch case first, then generalize :) $\endgroup$ Nov 23, 2016 at 19:31
  • $\begingroup$ @SJuan76. I would upvote that answer, at the very least. $\endgroup$ Nov 23, 2016 at 19:32
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    $\begingroup$ I'd be more concerned with sudden changes in air pressure than seeing different things quickly $\endgroup$
    – Raditz_35
    Jun 26, 2017 at 7:51

3 Answers 3


Teleportation as you describe it is a sudden change in location that the teleportee perceives through all available senses. We obviously can't test that on humans today, but we can get some clues from the closest approximation we can get with current technology: virtual reality.

VR, like flight simulators that preceded it, can cause something akin to motion sickness. The disorientation comes from the mismatch between the artificial scene -- for example, what you're seeing -- and your body (like your inner ear). But this seems to come from motion, not scene changes, so that doesn't immediately help. A scene that's changing very quickly does not automatically produce the same effects as a cut to a new scene.

This article argues that teleportation (I think it means both bullet time and cuts) actually does work in VR, and the author explains why: we all grew up watching TV and movies. We're used to seeing sudden scene changes. We're ok with that. Seeing them through VR goggles apparently isn't especially jarring. (By the way, there are best practices for VR developers that address perception issues.)

So if our teleportation concerns were only about the visual aspects, we'f probably be in pretty good shape: it shouldn't be too disorienting, and you might tell first-time or squeamish travelers to close their eyes for a few seconds. But teleportation also changes what you hear, smell, and feel (tactile, temperature, wind, etc). If the atmosphere or gravity changes you'll probably notice that, much like people flying to Denver for the first time.

The visual changes are the ones we're best-equipped to deal with through conditioning. The others will be more disorienting. If the context is something like a rescue mission, add stress for that (though subtract some if the people involved are trained soldiers).

So what can you do about it? For "beaming down to the planet" (et al), there's probably not much you can do other than to warn/remind people before they jump what to expect on the other end. When teleporting to a controlled location (like returning to the ship), try to create as neutral an experience as you can:

  • dark, but not completely dark -- the travelers should be able to see, but don't bombard them with bright lights or anything blinking or moving

  • something like white noise, to lay down a foundation that covers small, jarring noises like clicks from controls

  • a comfortable temperature, whatever the travelers consider "room temperature" to be

  • something to sit on for anybody who gets dizzy or disoriented

If your technical bag of tricks includes environmental manipulation and you have time, you might even be able to program your teleport pad to match gravity, air pressure, and atmosphere with where they're coming from. This would allow you to ease them out of big changes. ("Ok, they're back; start turning down the gravity slowly.")

  • $\begingroup$ This makes me wonder how feasible it would be to develop a smell generating attachment for VR. And thanks for the links. $\endgroup$ Nov 24, 2016 at 3:55
  • $\begingroup$ Given your mention of motion sickness, and just my own general expectations and experiences, I would think that teleporting wouldn't be psychologically stressful at all, but might be mildly (to extremely, depending on the degree of the sudden change) physiologically stressful. I feel like an elevator is a decent model for the psychological effects. Sure, it's not instant, but a smooth enough elevator ride I wouldn't be able to tell how far up/down I'm going, and could very well end up in a vastly different place. $\endgroup$
    – Michael
    Jun 26, 2017 at 20:07
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    $\begingroup$ Ironically, while teleportation in VR doesn't induce motion sickness, it does induce disorientation as the user as to re-establish their bearings. In movies we don't need to do that as much as the scene changes are usually pretty drastic (interior to exterior, exterior to interior, closeup to wide view, etc. and the only context the viewer needs is who are these people and where are they which is solved in about 3 frames). In a game you often need much more contextual information, such as "do I need to make another jump? in which direction?." $\endgroup$ Jun 26, 2017 at 21:04
  • $\begingroup$ If humans can adapt to sudden visual changes as we do for films, etc., I imagine we could adapt to sudden changes involving all the other senses. So I would imagine that people who teleport often would be less fazed by it than people who never have. $\endgroup$ Jun 27, 2017 at 20:24
  • $\begingroup$ @r_alex_hall I think you're right that people who do it often will acclimate to the experience. Films seem different in that only the stuff happening on that screen in front of you is changing quickly; the rest of your surroundings aren't. $\endgroup$ Jun 27, 2017 at 20:25

On the whole, people would probably handle it very well

The scenario you're describing isn't really that much different from, say, sitting on a train and looking out the window when you enter/leave a tunnel. Your body is not propelling itself anywhere, but the scenery outside is changing drastically and instantaneously.

Our brains are on the whole remarkably flexible, able to adjust to all kinds of 'unnatural' events without any serious difficulty. In this scenario, probably the worst you could expect would be a serious case of jetlag.

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    $\begingroup$ Nobody gets cognitive dissonance when the scene changes (or somebody teleports) on the tv or in a movie. I would assume the same bears up under existing virtual reality conditions. As for equilibrium (the only other sense I can think of that would detect a significant change), nobody suffers PTSD when a car (or faster means of transport) accelerates or decelerates suddenly (excepting from other stressors when the deceleration is due to a crash). $\endgroup$
    – Trevortni
    Nov 23, 2016 at 20:44
  • $\begingroup$ @Trevortni. It seems like the general consensus here is that the worst thing likely to happen would be mild nausea. I was wondering if prerhaps movies hadn't put enough thought into the portrayal of the effects. $\endgroup$ Nov 24, 2016 at 3:58
  • $\begingroup$ @Trevortni Is the motion sickness or disorientation important to the plot? No? Cut it. $\endgroup$ Jun 26, 2017 at 21:07

Use altered states of consciousness during teleportation

People are very accustomed to observing and participating in extremely unusual laws of physics during dream states and other altered states of consciousness. No coping mechanism is even needed, especially if they are informed ahead of time. If there is no time to inform or prepare them ahead, simply initiate the altered state prior and they will experience it as they would a dream.

Perhaps the altered state method is begun via the air they breathe as they pass through what they think is a standard airlock or decontamination chamber. When they "wake up", they are easily able to realize they had fallen asleep or zoned out and day dreamed whatever they saw, shake off the groginess and resume usual cognitive functioning without undue stress. Afterwards when there is time for explanations, they will be most likely be fascinated by the entire experience and some will even be of the thrill seeking or consciousness exploring types and ask if they can do it again fully conscious.

This assumes they are already modern people who accept the concept of space ship style travel. If teleporting primitive peoples, it is probably best to not even try to explain the actual process. They will be fine with remembering it as a very unusual dream.

This method will also work for training of those who would need to transport this way often and resume normal function quickly afterwards. While I agree with Werrf's answer, perhaps on the surface, there are no immediate side effects, but over time it was found there were indeed subtle adverse symptoms arising from the subconscious. One example could be that with repeat use, the jetlag begins to linger far longer and more pronounced than desirable for your seasoned teleportees. Then additional "brain training" comes into play. You could experiment with different methods of inducing the desired altered state, and through much practice of meditative techniques, some trainees will even be able to enter and exit these states at will, efficiently and without the use of external substances.

  • $\begingroup$ I am not sure how this will help given that the transport is instantaneous. Also, it appears to be overkill in the context of the other answers. $\endgroup$ Jun 26, 2017 at 17:40
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    $\begingroup$ I agreed with @Werrf answer, but since there wasn't an accepted answer yet, was trying to offer another perspective/idea in case it fit the storyline, in particular, the training aspect. Perhaps on the surface, there is no immediate effects without the additional training used, but over time it was found there were indeed subtle adverse symptoms arising from the subconscious. Perhaps with repeat use, the jetlag begins to linger far longer and more pronounced than desirable for your seasoned teleportees. The additional "brain training" then comes into play... $\endgroup$
    – N2ition
    Jun 26, 2017 at 19:21
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    $\begingroup$ I like your explanatory comment better than the answer itself. I think you should add it in. $\endgroup$ Jun 26, 2017 at 19:22

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