VR & Eyewitness memory

Context reinstatement of eyewitness memory using Virtual Reality

Dr. Grainne Kirwan and John Buckley of the Faculty of Film, Art and Creative Technologies were recently awarded funding for a postgraduate student to complete Masters level research examining the potential use of virtual reality in the improvement of eyewitness memory through the use of context reinstatement.

The funding was awarded by the Institutes of Technology Ireland (IoTI) under their Postgraduate Scholarship Initiative 2013. The scholarship is awarded for two years, and includes tuition fees and a maintenance grant for the student.

IADT is home to the VLab – a high-end, immersive, three-dimensional virtual reality system. This system displays interactive environments in a 3x3x3 metre, cube-shaped structure. The simulation is back-projected onto three walls, and front projected onto the system floor. It tracks user positions and updates the view presented based on infra-red signals. More information and images of the system are available at www.vlab.ie

Context reinstatement refers to a process used to improve memory of material and events when recalled in an environment similar or identical to the environment in which they were initially learned or experienced. This phenomenon is often used when interviewing eyewitnesses of crimes, encouraging witnesses to imagine being back at the crime scene, thus enhancing their memories. This study will examine if the VLab can benefit the recall of details of a crime by eyewitnesses of that event by generating virtual replications of the scene.

Following advertisement of the scholarship and a recruitment process, Joanne Carroll, a graduate of the IADT BSc (Hons) in Applied Psychology, was appointed, and she began the research in October.