The Effects of Virtual Environments on Recall in Participants of Differing Levels of Field Dependence


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Virginia Tech


Virtual environments are visually dominant systems. It seems that individuals" visual perception abilities would have an effect on their performance in a virtual environment. One such visual perception ability that seems a logical fit for study in virtual environments is that of disembedding ability. Disembedding ability is one part of a greater psychological construct known as field dependence.

This research investigates how the learner characteristic of field dependence affects learning outcomes in virtual environments In order to examine the effect of virtual environments on recall among learners of differing levels of field dependence, the following specific questions and hypotheses were formed:

  1. Does the use of virtual environments affect participants" performance in a task of recall?
  2. Do participants of different levels of field dependence perform differently on a task of recall when presented with virtual environments versus static images?
  3. Do field-dependent participants score higher on a test of recall when presented with a virtual environment?

An experimental design using a sample of Virginia Tech students was employed in this study. The analysis consisted of a 2 X 2 factorial design with main effects for two levels of field dependence (field dependent and field independent), two levels of image representation (virtual environment versus static images), and interaction effects between the two factors.

The factorial analysis showed no significant difference in recall test scores for the two treatments. Likewise, there was no significant difference in test scores for field dependent participants who received the virtual-environment treatment versus the static-image treatment. However, a significant interaction existed between field dependence and treatment type, favoring the field-independent participants who received the virtual-environment treatment.

It can be concluded from this study that virtual environments have no effect on the recall ability of field-dependent learners. Further research might focus on other individual differences, such as spatial ability, that may have an effect on field-dependent learners" strategies for working in a virtual environment.



virtual environments, cognitive style, web-based instruction, visual learning