Latest Research Suggests 3D can Enhance the Learning Process

The amount of knowledge is growing at an ever increasing rate. It follows that the amount of information and understanding that a person needs to live and work effectively is growing at a correspondingly increasing rate. Making the reasonable assumption that people are not getting smarter (at least not very quickly – Man. Ed.), it also follows that means need to be developed for people to learn more effectively. One such candidate means is the use of 3D in teaching. A recent experiment co-sponsored by RealD and Vue Entertainment has investigated this potential.

The research was conducted by behavioral scientist Patrick Fagan. He is an Associate Lecturer at Goldsmiths, University of London, Institute of Management Studies (London, United Kingdom).

It should be noted that this most recent research is a follow on to a study conducted last year. The focus of last year’s research was on how the immersive nature of 3D could potentially sharpen the brain functions of adults. This year’s experiments focused on determining how exposure to 2D and 3D imagery affects the cognitive, physiological and emotional performance of children.

The experiment involved 63 children between seven and fourteen years old. Participants completed a series of tests before and after watching either a 20 minute 3D or 2D clip from the movie ‘The Jungle Book’.

According to the new study, 3D can improve the “cognitive processing” of children and can do so for a protracted period after the movie has been viewed. In addition, 3D can have a short-term “brain training” effect. These results were determined from reaction time testing.

Children that participated in the tests were found to react more quickly in a computer-based task. They showed an average decrease in response time of 43 milliseconds after viewing a 3D film. This is about three times faster than the 16.1 milliseconds decrease that occurred after viewing a 2D film. In other words, 3D was shown to help children more quickly process information in their environment.

Fagan believes that watching films in 3D before undertaking tasks that require speed of reaction are likely to result in enhanced performance. The explanation for this enhancement offered by the researcher is that 3D is a mentally stimulating experience and that 3D films can induce a type of mental engagement that 2D cannot. Basically, 3D served to increase attentiveness.

In addition, the researcher found that this improvement in cognitive processing can potentially follow through into the “real world.” Oddly enough, this claim was based on experiments that used the surgery board game ‘Operation’.

In a second experiment, a smaller sample of children was fitted with physiological sensors in order to capture their level of excitement. The level was measured by looking at the child’s galvanic skin response (GSR) and heart rate. The result was that a 3D film was found to be more exciting than a 2D film. The GSR reading of the 3D film was 14% higher than that experienced when viewing a 2D film. 3D also was found to increase heart rate. The average maximum recorded heart rate for the 3D film was 17% higher than for a 2D film.

“The immersive nature of 3D was also found to make for a more emotionally engaging experience, with a computer-based task using ‘emotions’ revealing that 3D resulted in a higher increase in ratings of surprise (32% versus 5% in 2D) and also a larger strength of feeling by 13%.”

A somewhat informal video is appended at the end of this article. It discusses the research methods and results of the 3D study.

Clearly, these latest experiments still represent only small-scale, preliminary research results. Although the results suggest an enhancement in the ability to learn through the use of 3D, additional research is required to further describe the nature and quantify the value of the enhancements. -Arthur Berman

Institute of Management Studies, Patrick Fagan, +44-0-20-7-296-4220, [email protected]