Ahn, Sun Joo (Grace), Kristine Nowak, and Kara McGillicuddy (2016). Processing information as a body of coral: The role of spatial presence on learning in immersive virtual environments. Paper to be presented at the 102nd Annual National Communication Association Conference, November 10-13, Philadelphia, PA.
Abstract: Those examining the role of technology on learning and perception have generally assumed that spatial presence leads to favorable outcomes (Kim & Biocca, 1997). Guided by the efficiency framework, the current study aims to present a more nuanced investigation of spatial presence by comparing the level of spatial presence in users experiencing a coral reef via video, and via head mounted display. It then examines whether increased spatial presence leads to favorable outcomes in the context of learning and recall. Participants (N = 100) were exposed to a simulation of a coral reef being destroyed by ocean acidification through rich layers of sensory information provided in an immersive virtual environment (IVE), or the same simulation presented through a video platform. Results indicated that although the IVE elicited greater spatial presence than video, the high spatial presence, in turn, led to lower recall of the information on ocean acidification provided during the simulation. Furthermore, the effect of experimental condition on spatial presence was contingent upon the individual’s preexisting apprehension toward technology. Spatial presence was also meaningfully associated with preexisting attitudes toward the topic area of the content provided, global warming concern. The efficiency and effectiveness of eliciting spatial presence in different outcome goals is discussed.