Memory Performance in a Fully Immersive Virtual Reality Environment.

Alexandra Voinescu, Daniel David

Research output: Contribution to conferenceAbstractpeer-review


Background: Previous studies that focused on the dual-memory processes in cognitive aging showed a strong decline of recollection (explicit, conscious and intentional recollection) and, to a lesser extent, of automaticity (implicit memory, unconscious and unintentional memory process) in case of older participants Besides ageing, several variables such as presence, cognitive absorbtion and simulator sickness might impact performance obtained in virtual reality (VR).

Objective: The current study investigated in a highly immersive virtual reality (VR) environment the dual memory processes among older and younger healthy adults. We expected reduced recollection for older adults compared to younger adults and similar performance between the two groups on automaticity. Second, we investigated if presence, simulator sickness and cognitive absorption correlate with recollection and automaticity.

Methods: Estimates of recollection and automaticity were computed using an adapted version of Process Dissociation Procedure. The basic virtual environment (VE) consisted of a virtual apartment which ran on a CAVE environment (EON Icube). The virtual apartment consisted of a bedroom, a bathroom and an open space living room with a kitchen. Forty objects were included (e.g. bed, chair, table, glasses, bookshelf, vase, and flower). The procedure had two phases: one in which participants navigated in the VE and had to learn as many objects as possible and one in which participants had to recollect the objects learned in VR using a stem competition task. Participants completed measures of presence, simulator sickness and cognitive absorption at the end of the VR task.

Results: Twelve older adults aged between 60 and 77 years (M = 66.00) and 26 young adults aged between 19 and 34 years (M = 24.15) participated. Our predictions were partially supported by the results. A Mann-Whitney U Test revealed significant differences on recollection estimates between healthy adults (Md = 0.17) and older adults (Md = 0.0), U = 63.00, z = -2.97, p = .003. For automaticity, results showed no significant differences between groups, Md = 0.23 vs. Md = 0.32, U = 105.500, z = -1.58, p = .11. Contrary to our predictions, there were no significant correlations between memory performance and presence, simulator sickness and cognitive absorption (all p > .05).

Conclusions: Results fit with previous studies and showed that in an immersive environment, older participants had poorer recollection compared to younger adults, probably because controlled memory process are affected by ageing. For automaticity, our results are in accordance with those reported in previous studies as they showed no differences in performance between healthy adults and older adults. Presence, simulator sickness and cognitive absorption were not associated with automaticity or recollection performance.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusAcceptance date - 10 Sept 2021


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