The use of nonsensical information in the study of learning and memory goes back to the beginning of the field of psychology. Nonsensical information makes it difficult to rely on previous learning, increasing task novelty and providing insight into the learning of new tasks. However, little research exists investigating the role of task novelty in everyday activities such as cooking, which involve overlearned skills. This study aims to investigate the role of task novelty in everyday memory for meal preparation tasks in virtual reality. Young adults (n = 41; age M = 18.77, SD = 1.40) and older adults (n = 40; age M = 74.35, SD = 6.44) and older adults with impaired cognition (n = 12; age M = 66.75, SD = 12.72) completed the Virtual Kitchen Protocol (VKP; Barnett et al., 2021), a virtual reality-based measure of learning and memory for cooking both familiar (e.g., cooking eggs and bacon) and nonsensical (e.g., making flowerpot juice) meals. Young adults had greater recall for both familiar and nonsensical meals than older adults. Among older adults, impaired cognition was associated with lower performance on the sensical meals, but older adults with normal cognition and impaired cognition did not differ in their ability to perform the nonsensical tasks. These results were consistent with the notion that familiarity may be of greater use than novelty. Novelty’s impact appears to impact impaired and normal cognition older adults more the young adults.

Date of publication

Summer 8-22-2022

Document Type




Persistent identifier


Committee members

Dr. Michael Barnett, Dr. Dennis Combs, Dr. Sarah Sass


Masters in Clinical Psychology

Included in

Psychology Commons