Experiences in Virtual Reality: a Window to Autobiographical Memory

  • Benjamin SchöneEmail author
  • Marlene Wessels
  • Thomas Gruber


VR-based paradigms could substantially increase the ecological validity of various psychological research topics as VR allows for submerging into real-life experiences under controlled laboratory conditions. In particular, in the field of mnemonic research, concerns have been raised that “laboratory memory” differs significantly from “real-life” autobiographical memory. Our study aimed to assess the immersive qualities of VR not only upon application but -more importantly- during the retrieval of the virtual experiences subsequent to a VR session. We presented participants with either a 360° VR or a 2D video of a motorcycle ride followed by an unannounced recognition memory task 48 h later. Increased retrieval success and delayed reaction times in the VR group indicate that immersive VR experiences become part of an extensive autobiographical associative network, whereas the conventional video experience remains an isolated episodic event.


Virtual reality Autobiographical memory Episodic memory 



The authors would like to thank the students who conducted this study: K. Beerheide, M. Erdogan, A. Frank, F. Groß, J. Hebisch, M. Heinzerling, H. Hermnes, A. Höger, A. Springer, R. Sylvester, I. Thomßen, P. von Felde, E. Wilgenbus.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

The study was conducted in accordance with the Declaration of Helsinki.

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Benjamin Schöne
    • 1
    Email author
  • Marlene Wessels
    • 1
  • Thomas Gruber
    • 1
  1. 1.Institute of PsychologyOsnabrück UniversityOsnabrückGermany

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