Level of immersion affects spatial learning in virtual environments: results of a three-condition within-subjects study with long intersession intervals

Abstract

Virtual reality and immersive technologies are used in a variety of learning and training applications. However, higher levels of immersion do not always improve learning. The mixed results in the literature may partly arise from the use of between-subjects designs, insufficient time intervals between sessions in within-subjects designs, and/or overreliance on binary comparisons of immersion levels. Our study examined the influence of three levels of audiovisual immersive technology on spatial learning in virtual environments, using a within-subjects design with long intersession intervals. Performance on object recognition and discrimination was improved in the highest immersion condition, whereas performance on directional bearings showed a U-shaped relationship with level of immersion. Examination of our data suggests that these results likely would not have been found had we used a between-subjects design or a binary comparison, thus demonstrating the value of our approach. Results suggest that different levels of immersion may be better suited to more or less cognitively complex types of spatial learning. We discuss challenges and opportunities for future work.

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Acknowledgements

We thank Jason Moss and Antony D. Passaro who contributed to the conceptualization and development of the study, and Bianca Dalangin who helped conduct the study. This work was funded by the United States Army Research Laboratory’s Human Sciences Campaign. The views and conclusions contained in this document are those of the authors and should not be interpreted as representing the official policies, either expressed or implied, of the Army Research Laboratory or U.S. Government. The U.S. Government is authorized to reproduce and distribute reprints for Government purposes notwithstanding any copyright notation herein.

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Pollard, K.A., Oiknine, A.H., Files, B.T. et al. Level of immersion affects spatial learning in virtual environments: results of a three-condition within-subjects study with long intersession intervals. Virtual Reality 24, 783–796 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10055-019-00411-y

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Keywords

  • Spatial learning
  • Virtual reality
  • Longitudinal design
  • Immersion
  • Head-mounted display
  • Spatial audio