Technologies of Virtual Reality in the Context of WorldWide and Russian Psychology: Methodology, Comparison with Traditional Methods, Achievements and Perspect

By Zinchenko, Yury P.; Chernorizov, Alexsander M. et al. | Psychology in Russia, January 1, 2010 | Go to article overview

Technologies of Virtual Reality in the Context of WorldWide and Russian Psychology: Methodology, Comparison with Traditional Methods, Achievements and Perspect


Zinchenko, Yury P., Chernorizov, Alexsander M., GYa, Menshikova, Bayakovsky, Yu M., Voiskounsky, Alexander E., Psychology in Russia


I. Virtual reality as a new technology in experimental psychology

1. Distinctive features and advantages?over traditional methods

The last decades have seen a rise in usage of a new experimental "virtual reality" technology in psychological research. By now its effectiveness has been proven by medicine, neuropsychology, cognitive and social psychology data. The virtual reality technology equips experimental psychology with methods that have certain differences from traditional laboratory instruments. A heated dispute of the advantages and disadvantages of the use of virtual reality systems in psychology has been and is being held in all experimental and review works carried out within this new methodology (Yee, 2007; Ducheneaut, Yee, Nickell, & Moore, 2006; Khan, Xu, & Stigant, 2003; Morganti et al., 2003; Optale et al., 2001).

In the paper some of the obvious advantages of this technology will be enumerated.

1.1. Methods based on the use of virtual reality can be favorably compared to traditional experimental psychology methods because of high level of ecological validity. Classical methods of dealing with questionnaires and tests are not quite adequate for measuring a number of psychological parameters such as practical intellect or complicated dynamic scene perception. A number of works (Neisser, 1981; Rock, 1995) discusses the question of reliability of traditional methods of cognitive functions evaluation simple stimuli are presented on a screen. Some abstract problems, such as "odd one out," "find common features" etc. are admitted to be too "narrow" and artificial compared to the problems people regularly face in real life. An even more simplified variant of cognitive process analysis uses standardized pen-and-paper tests and the cognitive / functional processes evaluation is based on two criteria: reliability and validity. But there are a lot of factors that reduce the reliability and the validity of the traditional methods, for example: variability of the experimental procedure depending on the particular expert and also the possibility of several cognitive functions being simultaneously active while doing the test which leads to ambiguousness of the conclusion which of them is being evaluated. Such notions as practical intellect and emotional intellect have been introduced recently. They denote intellect not as an ability to solve problems but as an ability to understand another person. Testing of these notions requires a new stimulus environment which is similar to the natural environment. It should be a number of complicated and changing in time and space scenes that provoke natural behavior of the viewer within virtual environment (going round objects, turning and touching them).

1.2. A highly important advantage of virtual environments is introduction of the time factor - "time arrow" in the psychological experiment structure. A subjective time scale, filled with "past," "present" and "future" experiences is one of the systemic "psychological stems" of a real purposeful behavior. The transition of experimental psychology from laboratory "stimulus" (test) paradigm to studying the subject's psychic processes and states in time, in dynamics is a step forward in developing the methodological base of contemporary psychology and setting up a "methodological dialogue" with contemporary natural science. The latter implies a search for basic analogues between the behavior of living (including social) and nonliving systems and consequently unification of research and description of them. Steps in this direction open up a way for answering the following important for the cognitive methodology question: are living and nonliving systems two different types of matter with their own law types? Or does the organization of matter in these two forms follow some common universal laws? Nobel prize winner I.R. Prigogine (1917-2003), developing the theory of nonlinear dynamic systems, suggested regarding any body-system of living or nonliving nature as unstable (Prigogine & Stengers, 1984; Nicolis & Prigogine, 1989). …

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