Media Technology MSc

Context-Dependent Memory in Real and Virtual Reality


Context-dependency effects on memory exist, whereby people’s context influences their ability to recall items from memory. This effect was not previously studied when considering VR as an environmental context. We show that adverse effects on memory exist when changing between virtual and real environments. The effect was not present when memorizing and recall were both done in VR; it appears caused by the change of environmental context. This previously unknown result challenges how we use VR in education and training. It undermines the paradigm that VR can be effectively used for learning information whereby later recall of that information in a real environment is important. In a memory-recall experiment (n = 51) participants that underwent a context change involving VR after memorizing performed significantly worse on 24-hour later item recall than those who did not change context (17% lower accuracy, p < 0.001). In particular memorizing in VR as opposed to a real environment lowers accuracy of recall in a real environment (24% lower, p = 0.001).


Maik Lanen and Maarten H. Lamers, Context-Dependent Memory in Real and Virtual Reality. In: Bourdot P., Cobb S., Interrante V., Kato H., Stricker D. (Eds.) Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality (EuroVR 2018). Lecture Notes in Computer Science 11162, Springer Publishing, pp 177-189, 2018.