Experiences in Virtual Reality: a Window to Autobiographical Memory

Abstract

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.

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Acknowledgements

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.

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Correspondence to Benjamin Schöne.

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

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The authors declare no conflict of interest.

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Schöne, B., Wessels, M. & Gruber, T. Experiences in Virtual Reality: a Window to Autobiographical Memory. Curr Psychol 38, 715–719 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12144-017-9648-y

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Keywords

  • Virtual reality
  • Autobiographical memory
  • Episodic memory