Virtual environments have the potential to become important new research tools in environment behavior research. They could even become the future (virtual) laboratories, if reactions of people to virtual environments are similar to those in real environments. The present study is an exploration of the comparability of research findings in real and virtual environments. In the study, 101 participants explored an identical space, either in reality or in a computer-simulated environment. Additionally, the presence of plants in the space was manipulated, resulting in a 2 (environment) ?? 2 (plants) between-subjects design. Employing a broad set of measurements, we found mixed results. Performances on size estimations and a cognitive mapping task were significantly better in the real environment. Factor analyses of bipolar adjectives indicated that, although four dimensions were similar for both environments, a fifth dimension of environmental assessment—termed arousal—was absent in the virtual environment. In addition, we found significant differences on the scores of four of the scales. However, no significant interactions appeared between environment and plants. Experience of and behavior in virtual environments have similarities to that in real environments, but there are important differences as well. We conclude that this is not only a necessary, but also a very interesting research subject for environmental psychology.
Kort, de, Y. A. W., IJsselsteijn, W. A., Kooijman, J. M. A., & Schuurmans, Y. (2003). Virtual laboratories : comparability of real and virtual environments for environmental psychology. Presence : Teleoperators and Virtual Environments, 12(4), 360-373. https://doi.org/10.1162/105474603322391604