Professor Jeremy N. Bailenson of the Stanford University Department of Communication on 25 January 2010 gave a presentation, entitled Transformed Social Interaction in Virtual Reality, at Harvard’s Berkman Center for Internet and Society.
Several aspects of the presentation may be of interest to legal informatics or legal communication researchers:
- Professor Bailenson discussed his research on the acquisition of false memories in virtual reality: Kathryn Y. Segovia & Jeremy N. Bailenson, Virtually True: Children’s Acquisition of False Memories in Virtual Reality, 12 Media Psychology 371 (2009).
- Professor Bailenson discussed several studies suggesting techniques that make one more or less persuasive, or more or less confident while communicating, in virtual reality. That research may be of interest to those studying potential applications of virtual reality to legal communication and decisionmaking, such as in legislative or administrative lawmaking, judicial or administrative proceedings, online alternative dispute resolution, legal negotiation, communication with clients, policy debates, etc.;
- During the discussion, Professor Julie E. Cohen of Georgetown Law Center remarked that Professor Bailenson’s research suggests that virtual reality vitiates perhaps the most important basis of evidentiary validity in U.S. evidence law: personal knowledge obtained via direct perception;
- Throughout the presentation and discussion, Professor Bailenson discussed a variety of innovative methods for conducting empirical research on human cognition and behavior in virtual reality; many of those methods seem applicable to a range of legal informatics and legal communication research.
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.
[NOTE: The following was added on 13 February 2010:] Click here for Professor Judith Donath’s post about the presentation.