Research: Virtual Reality Experience Boosts Confidence and Cognitive Skills

Category: Human Interest


Unlocking Word Meanings

Read the following words/expressions found in today’s article.

  1. cognitive / ˈkɑːgnətɪv / (adj) – relating to mental processes (e.g. learning, recall)

    I heard that reading enhances cognitive skills.

  2. self-esteem / ˌsɛlfəˈstiːm / (n) – one’s personal view of his or her value as an individual

    My self-esteem improved after I graduated with honors.

  3. personify / pɚˈsɑːnəˌfaɪ / (v) – to physically represent someone or something

    She personified her favorite superhero during the costume party.

  4. retain / rɪˈteɪn / (v) – to keep or maintain something

    I can easily retain new information, but I can no longer recall old memories.

  5. as opposed to / ˈæz əˈpoʊzd ˈtuː / (idiom) – different from what was mentioned

    The new mobile phone model can last up to 48 hours, as opposed to the old one that lasted for only 24 hours.


Read the text below.

Virtual reality (VR) experience can enhance cognitive performance and self-esteem, a new study found.

Researchers from the University of Barcelona in Spain gathered 30 young male participants for an experiment on “virtual embodiment”—the illusion of having a different body than one’s own. The participants were asked to wear a body-tracking suit and a VR headset. Half of them embodied legendary scientist Albert Einstein, while the other half personified an average adult body.

Before the experiment, the researchers asked the participants to take tests that measured their self-esteem and cognitive capacity, or their ability to plan and to solve problems. After the experiment, the participants took the tests again.

Based on the findings, those who had low self-esteem performed better during the second cognitive test after personifying Einstein than those who embodied an average adult body.

The researchers suspect that the results were brought about by how people with low self-esteem have the most motivation to change their perception of themselves. By seeing themselves as an intelligent and a renowned scientist, it is possible that their confidence increased while taking the test. This, in turn, led to better performance in the cognitive test.

Another study showed how VR experience can boost cognitive performance. Researchers from the University of Maryland found that people retain information better when immersing in VR environments, as opposed to using computers or tablets. The participants also claimed that they were able to concentrate more within the VR environment. According to a senior research scientist, there is a possibility that immersing in a VR environment can boost recall and learning by improving one’s orientation and mobility skills.

Viewpoint Discussion

Enjoy a discussion with your tutor.

Discussion A

• If you could take part in a virtual embodiment experience, who would you want to personify? Why?
• Based on the study’s results, do you think more people should be encouraged to try a virtual embodiment experience? Why or why not?

Discussion B

• In your opinion, what are some possible negative effects of using VR? Explain.
• What do you think can be other applications of VR (e.g. games)? Discuss your ideas.