A new study finds that human recall is notably better when people are immersed in virtual reality (VR), as opposed to more traditional platforms like a two-dimensional desktop computer or hand-held tablet. The results of the study were recently published in the journal Virtual Reality.

“This data is exciting in that it suggests that immersive environments could offer new pathways for improved outcomes in education and high-proficiency training,” said co-author Dr. Amitabh Varshney, professor of computer science and dean of the College of Computer, Mathematical, and Natural Sciences at the University of Maryland (UMD). Varshney leads several major research efforts on the UMD campus involving virtual and augmented reality (AR), including close collaboration with health care professionals interested in developing AR-based diagnostic tools for emergency medicine and VR training for surgical residents.

For the study, the UMD team used the concept of a “memory palace,” where people recall an object or item by placing it in an imaginary physical location like a building or town. This method — researchers refer to it as spatial mnemonic encoding — has been used since classical times, taking advantage of the human brain’s ability to spatially organize thoughts and memories.

“Humans have always used visual-based methods to help them remember information, whether it’s cave drawings, clay tablets, printed text and images, or video,” said Eric Krokos, a doctoral student in computer science and lead author of the paper. “We wanted to see if virtual reality might be the next logical step in this progression.” The study involved 40 volunteers, mostly UMD students unfamiliar with virtual reality.

The researchers divided the participants into two groups: one viewed information first via a VR head-mounted display and then on a desktop; the other did the opposite. Both groups received printouts of well-known faces, such as Abraham Lincoln, the Dalai Lama, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Marilyn Monroe, and familiarized themselves with the images. Read more from psychcentral.com…

thumbnail courtesy of psychcentral.com