Cognitive conflict in virtual reality based object selection task : an EEG study to understand brain dynamics associated with cognitive conflict in a virtual reality 3D object selection task

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Cognitive conflict is an essential part of everyday interaction with the environment and is often characterized as a brain’s action monitoring and control system that activates when prediction based on previous experience acquired from the environment does not match with derived knowledge from sensory inputs from cognitive processing. Although cognitive conflict can be seen as an essential part of learning about the environment, it requires the brain to assign a higher number of cognitive resources such as attention, memory, and engagement compared to non-conflicting conditions. In this work, cognitive conflict has been evaluated in a three-dimensional (3D) object selection task in a virtual reality environment by assessing, evaluating, and understanding the factors of visual appearance, task completion time, movement velocity during interaction and its implications for a sense of agency, and presence in a virtual reality (VR) environment. An electroencephalogram (EEG)-based approach along with behavioral information is used. The results show that the amplitude of negative event-related potential (50-150 ms), defined as prediction error negativity (PEN), correlates with the realism of the rendering style of virtual hands during the interaction. It was also found that PEN amplitudes are significantly more pronounced in slow trials than fast trials. Based on these findings, a closed-loop BCI system has been designed to assess the effect of cognitive conflict in 3D object selection and provide the matrices which can improve users’ feelings of a sense of agency towards VR. These findings suggest that a realistic representation of the user’s hand, compatible task completion time and hand movement velocity are essential components for the better integration of information from both visual and proprioceptive systems during the interaction to avoid cognitive conflict due to a mismatch between action and expected feedback. The findings also suggest that the assessment of cognitive conflict measured by PEN can improve the overall experience of the 3D object selection task in a VR environment. Collectively, these findings provide a glimpse of understanding into how the brain dynamics behind interaction works and its implications in assessment for the content development industries in VR.
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