Unintended consequences of spatial presence on learning in virtual reality

Sun Joo (Grace) Ahn, Kristine Nowak & Jeremy Bailenson (2022). “Unintended consequences of spatial presence on learning in virtual reality.” Computers & Education, doi:10.1016/j.compedu.2022.104532

Abstract: Research on virtual reality (VR) in education and training has found that spatial presence, the perception that the body is inside a mediated environment, increases engagement. However, experiencing spatial presence requires the allocation of limited processing resources, potentially inhibiting the processing of other information. Guided by the frameworks of Limited Capacity Model of Motivated Mediated Message Processing (LC4MP), and the cognitive theory of multimedia learning, two experiments examined the effects of different modalities on spatial presence to test the prediction that spatial presence negatively impacts recall. Study 1 (N = 100) found that VR elicited higher spatial presence than video, but that high spatial presence reduced recall. Individual differences (technology apprehension) moderated spatial presence. Study 2 (N = 260) found that pre-existing interest in the learning content and aversive responses elicited by the learning content increased spatial presence. However, segmenting the VR content to reduce processing load for participants had little effect on spatial presence or information recall. In sum, modality features and individual differences drove user experiences of spatial presence, which negatively impacted recall, but segmentation of VR content had no effect on learning outcomes.