Navigating Through a Scene: Understanding Object Memory Within an Immersive Virtual Environment

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Li, Laura S.
scene memory , spatial navigation , Virtual Reality (VR)
Many past studies have examined the role of memory and navigation in the context of larger environments. However, memory processes when navigating smaller, more confined spaces such as scenes has not been thoroughly explored or understood. In addition, past research has shown that memory for a series of items can depend on the order in which they are encountered, and although numerous studies have examined this phenomenon, the applicability and strength of this effect to our everyday memory is not clear, particularly for smaller spaces (e.g., scenes). In the present study, we investigated how memory for objects in scenes varied during navigation as participants walked through a virtual environment. Across two experiments, for each trial, participants navigated through a room then completed a memory test. In Experiment 1, we examined memory for both larger, room-defining objects and smaller, moveable objects. Contrary to expectations, we found no significant difference in memory performance for serial position or object size. However, exploratory analyses showed that encoding and exploration speed significantly influenced memory for objects. In Experiment 2, we manipulated the task relevance of target objects, such that targets were either obstacles in the route (relevant) or were passed along the route (irrelevant). Surprisingly, relevance did not significantly impact memory performance. However, further analyses showed a significant impact of the time spent viewing target objects on subsequent memory performance. Although the present findings did not show significant effects of either object role or task relevance, the present study serves as a foundation for future research to further examine how scene representations vary during navigation and exploration.
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