A Virtual Reality Memory Palace Variant Aids Knowledge Retrieval from Scholarly Articles

Yang F., Qian J., Novotny J., Badre D., Jackson C.D., Laidlaw D.H.
To be Published in IEEE Transactions on Visualization and Computer Graphics (Accepted), June 2020

We present exploratory research of virtual reality techniques and mnemonic devices to assist in retrieving knowledge from scholarly articles. We used abstracts of scientific publications to represent knowledge in scholarly articles; participants were asked to read, remember, and retrieve knowledge from a set of abstracts. We conducted an experiment to compare participants’ recall and recognition performance in three different conditions: a control condition without a pre-specified strategy to test baseline individual memory ability, a condition using an image-based variant of a mnemonic called a “memory palace,” and a condition using a virtual reality-based variant of a memory palace. Our analyses show that using a virtual reality-based memory palace variant greatly increased the amount of knowledge retrieved and retained over the baseline, and it shows a moderate improvement over the other image-based memory palace variant. Anecdotal feedback from participants suggested that personalizing a memory palace variant would be appreciated. Our results support the value of virtual reality for some high-level cognitive tasks and help improve future applications of virtual reality and visualization.