Experiences in virtual reality entail different processes of retrieval as opposed to conventional laboratory settings: A study on human memory
Recently, it has been claimed that real-life, autobiographical events are processed differently compared to conventional laboratory events. Virtual reality might bridge the gap between real life and laboratory experiences and increase the ecological validity of psychological research. There is broad consensus that self-referential processing is essential for the formation of autobiographical memory. However, it is unclear whether autobiographical experiences can be created with commonly used paradigms, or if self-referentiality is unique to (virtual) reality. We thus set up an experiment in which participants explored a virtual Viking Village either in virtual reality or as a conventional first-person experience on a screen. As hypothesized, virtual reality experiences are vividly retrieved via recollection-based mnemonic processes, which are typical for autobiographical memory. In comparison, conventional screen experiences rather leave a feeling of familiarity. The encoding mechanism in virtual reality might closely resemble real-life mnemonic processing, making VR an ideal tool to study real-life cognition under controlled laboratory conditions.
KeywordsVirtual reality Dual process theory Autobiographical memory Episodic memory
All authors contributed to the study design. Testing and data collection were performed by J. Kisker. J. Kisker and B. Schöne performed the data analysis and interpretation under the supervision of T. Gruber. J. Kisker drafted the manuscript, and B. Schöne and T. Gruber provided critical revisions. All authors approved the final version of the manuscript for submission.
Compliance with Ethical Standards
Declaration of Interest
All authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.
- Atkinson, R. C., & Juola, J. F. (1973). Factors influencing speed and accuracy of word recognition. Attention and Performance IV, 583–612.Google Scholar
- Cabeza, R., Prince, S. E., Daselaar, S. M., Greenberg, D. L., Budde, M., Dolcos, F., LaBar, K. S., & Rubin, D. C. (2004). Brain activity during episodic retrieval of autobiographical and laboratory events: An fMRI study using a novel photo paradigm. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, 16(9), 1583–1594. https://doi.org/10.1162/0898929042568578.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Diemer, J., Alpers, G. W., Peperkorn, H., Shiban, Y., & Mühlberger, A. (2015). The impact of perception and presence on emotional reactions: A review of research in virtual reality. Frontiers in Psychology, 6(JAN). https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2015.00026.
- Kvavilashvili, L., & Ellis, J. (2004). Ecological validity and the real-life/laboratory controversy in memory research: A critical and historical review. History and Philosophy of Psychology, 6, 59–80.Google Scholar
- Mandler, G. (1991). Your face looks familiar but I can’t remember your name: A review of dual process theory. In E. William, E. Hockley, & E. S. Lewandowsky (Eds.), Relating theory and data: Essays on human memory in honor of Bennet B. Murdock (pp. 207–225). Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.Google Scholar
- Rajaram, S. (1996). Perceptual effects on remembering: Recollective processes in picture recognition memory. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 22(2), 365–377.Google Scholar
- Renoult, L., Tanguay, A., Beaudry, M., Tavakoli, P., Rabipour, S., Campbell, K., Moscovitch, M., Levine, B., & Davidson, P. S. R. (2016). Personal semantics: Is it distinct from episodic and semantic memory? An electrophysiological study of memory for autobiographical facts and repeated events in honor of Shlomo Bentin. Neuropsychologia, 83, 242–256. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.neuropsychologia.2015.08.013.
- Roediger, H. L., & Marsh, E. J. (2003). Episodic and autobiographical memory. In A. F. Healy & R. W. Proctor (Eds.), The handbook of psychology (pp. 475–497). New York: Wiley.Google Scholar
- Schöne, B., Wessels, M., & Gruber, T. (2017a). Experiences in virtual reality: A window to autobiographical memory. Current Psychology, 1–5.Google Scholar
- Schöne, B., Wessels, M., & Gruber, T. (2017b). Differences between real-life and laboratory memory: Evidence from EEG and virtual reality. Poster session presented at the meeting of Psychologie und Gehirn 2017, Trier.Google Scholar
- Svoboda, E., McKinnon, M. C., & Levine, B. (2006). The functional neuroanatomy of autobiographical memory: A meta-analysis. Neuropsychologia, 44(12), 2189–2208. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.neuropsychologia.2006.05.023.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Yonelinas, A. P. (1994). Receiver-operating characteristics in recognition memory: Evidence for a dual-process model. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 20(6), 1341.Google Scholar
- Yonelinas, A. P. (1999). The contribution of recollection and familiarity to recognition and source-memory judgments: A formal dual-process model and an analysis of receiver operating characterstics. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 25(6), 1415.Google Scholar