Abstract

Objective: The current study examined the potential of a novel Virtual Classroom Stroop task for assessing attentional processing. Traditional assessment of executive functions have been criticized as lacking ecological validity. The VR Classroom attempts to address this by immersing the individual in a real-world environment. Advantages include increased experimental control, improved measurement accuracy, controlled presentation of distracting stimuli, and increased enjoyment. We aimed to compare the VR-based Stroop (with and without distractions) with traditional (paper-and-pencil and computerized) versions of the Stroop. Method: Thirty-four neurotypical college students were administered two traditional versions of the Stroop task (paper-and-pencil and computerized) and the VR Classroom Stroop task. The VR Classroom presents stimuli within the environment and asks participants to click a mouse button if the color of a stimulus presented matches the color of the stimulus spoken by the “virtual teacher.” In the distraction condition, ecologically valid auditory, visual, and audio-visual distractors are presented around the environment. Results: The VR Classroom elicited an interference effect, F(1, 32) = 132.08, p < .001. Reaction times for word naming were longer than the traditional version of the Stroop. Additionally, distracting stimuli did not significantly impact reaction times. Conclusion(s): The VR Classroom successfully elicited an interference effect using Stroop stimuli, suggesting it may be used as a measure of interference control. Although distracting stimuli were not significant, clinical populations may be more likely to experience difficulty due to increased environmental complexity. Additional research is required before the Classroom can be used in clinical settings.