The Effect of interactivity on learning physical actions in virtual reality

Bailenson, J.N., Patel, K., Nielsen, A., Bajcsy, R., Jung, S., & Kurillo, G. (2008). The Effect of interactivity on learning physical actions in virtual reality. Media Psychology, 11, 354–376.


Virtual reality (VR) offers new possibilities for learning, specifically for training individuals to perform physical movements such as physical therapy and exercise. The current article examines two aspects of VR that uniquely contribute to media interactivity: the ability to capture and review physical behavior and the ability to see one’s avatar rendered in real time from third person points of view. In two studies, we utilized a state-of-the-art, image-based tele-immersive system, capable of tracking and rendering many degrees of freedom of human motion in real time. In Experiment 1, participants learned better in VR than in a video learning condition according to self-report measures, and the cause of the advantage was seeing one’s avatar stereoscopically in the third person. In Experiment 2, we added a virtual mirror in the learning environment to further leverage the ability to see oneself from novel angles in real time. Participants learned better in VR than in video according to objective performance measures. Implications for learning via interactive digital media are discussed.