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Review: Virtually True: Children’s Acquisition of False Memories in Virtual Reality

Blog: Business Process Management Virtual Environments

Virtually True: Children’s Acquisition of False Memories in Virtual Reality

Journal of Media Psychology, 12:371–393, 2009
DOI: 10.1080/15213260903287267
Previous work on human memory has shown that prompting participants with false events and self-relevant information via different types of media such as narratives, edited 2-dimensional images, and mental imagery creates false memories. This study tested a new form of media for studying false memory formation: Immersive Virtual Environment Technology (IVET). Using this tool, we examined how memory was affected by viewing dynamic simulations of avatars performing novel actions. In the study, 55 preschool and elementary children were randomly assigned to 1 of 4 memory prompt conditions (idle, mental imagery, IVET simulation of another child, or IVET simulation of self). Each child was questioned 3 different times: once before the memory prompt, once immediately after the memory prompt, and once approximately 5 days after the memory prompt. Results showed that preschool children were equally likely to develop false memories regardless of memory prompt condition. But, for elementary children, the mental imagery and IVET self conditions caused significantly more false memories than the idle condition. Implications regarding the use of digital media in courtroom settings, clinical therapy settings, entertainment, and other applications are discussed.

Interesting, another acronym – Immersive Virtual Environment Technology (IVET).  I don’t like it, prefer 3D virtual worlds.  But I guess the use of immersive is pertinent here.

Note here that experiments were performed with children, not adults.  They state that the vulnerability of preschool children to suggestive influences is very high, so may not apply to adults.

They also bring up the source monitoring judgement as an experimental task; viz. the identification of sources of memories, and how it is actually poorly managed on the part of the brain.

They also state that narratives are commonly used to test false memories.  Are these analogous to workflows, and the place of false memories in elicitation?!?!?

Conjecture: Is the imposition of a process a form of false memory imputation over the actuality of the work processes in an enterprise?  Or, for any elicitation process for that matter?  Thus the more real the stimuli, the more likely to get the truth?  Possible research question here.

They note that narrative information previously used in experiments is not that rich.  The media richness theory suggests a greater effect from IVETs.

Interesting passage:

“In another set of studies, college students heard simple action statements and in some conditions either performed or imagined the action as well (Goff & Roediger, 1998). In a second session, participants imagined performing actions (some of which came from the first session and some of which were new) either one, three, or five times. In the third session, participants were asked to identify actions only if they had occurred in the first session and, if identified, to tell whether the action statement had been carried out, imagined, or merely heard. The main finding was that increasing the number of imaginings during the second session caused participants to later remember that they had performed an action during the first session when in fact the participant had not.”

Note the influence of imagination over the actual memory of a performed event.  This seems to hold across familiar and non-familiar actions – relevant to knowledge elicitation.  If you get people to imagine badly, they will report badly.

They also note the power of imaging past actions; very close and personal stimuli and feedback interactions in the person’s head.  May be part of a feedback loop.

Another key factor here:

“We believe that the manipulation explored by Strange and colleagues (2008) is important and would like to offer a complementary hypothesis to explain the reported effect. We propose that personalized photographs were more powerful stimuli because they fulfilled the personal focus criterion in- volved in media richness. The personal focus involved in the media richness criteria is influential in the memory process because it causes humans to self-reference; people encode more attributes when they are engaged in self-referent processing than other types of processing (Symons & Johnson, 1997). The greater the amount of information encoded the more similar the memory becomes to a memory of a physical world event, and the greater the likelihood that a source monitoring error will occur.”

This is the key here to me, not regarding false memories, but regarding actual memories.  Such an idea lends further weight to the fact that elicitation is enhanced by personal recollection, but may be further confounded if the personal recollection has edits introduced.  So, we have a mechanism here for the noise involved in recollection, especially that which is false, not just knocked out due to functional problems, such as random memory lapses.

They note that use of media may provide a low-cognitive organisation environment, compared to abstract representations, such as text.  This may lead, in fact, to more inaccuracy, as errors are amplified by the nature of the immersion involved.

Their summation indicates that children are affected by false narratives, even in a passive viewing, non-interactive manner, with the IVET.  This indicates a predictable effect on people of experiencing false stories in IVETs, and leads to the conclusion that such environments should be used with caution, but that they hold promise in enabling better recall, if the stimuli are accurate.

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