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Title: Virtual reality and human spatial cognition
Author: Stirk, Jonathan Antony
Awarding Body: University of Leicester
Current Institution: University of Leicester
Date of Award: 2002
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Virtual Reality is a means of presenting multi-sensory information to an individual via a computer monitor or a head mounted device. These computer generated, three-dimensional environments allow for pseudo real-time interaction and immerse the user in a synthetic space, resulting in a feeling of 'presence'. The many uses of virtual reality are discussed, including the more recent application to psychology. Development of user friendly software packages has allowed psychologists to design virtual environments for the purpose of assessment and training, as well as to further explore psychological theories. The highly visual nature of VR allows this medium to specifically examine spatial cognition in humans. Both clinical patients and non-clinical participants were examined using a number of VR environments to assess various aspects of spatial cognition. Firstly VR was used to determine whether visuospatial deficits are present in patients with Parkinson's disease or closed head injury. The results suggest that VR can be used to assess visuospatial deficit in clinical samples. The remaining studies examined human performance in environments based upon animal maze experiments. Cue preference in multiple choice tasks was investigated and results support the suggestion that distal cues are more important than proximal ones. The final study questioned whether spatial skills learnt in a computer environment could be successfully transferred to the real world and found that this was indeed the case. All of the findings promote the use of virtual reality in a psychological setting, drawing upon the advantages that VR technology has to offer in the experimental field.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available