Stanford University

Virtually true: Children’s acquisition of false memories in virtual reality

Segovia, K.Y. & Bailenson, J.N. (2009). Virtually true: Children's acquisition of false memories in virtual reality. Media Psychology, 12, 371-393.

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Abstract

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.

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