Virtual reality (VR) can promote design performance, and may generate a high cognitive load and affect creative design thinking as well. In order to examine the effect of VR application on cognitive load and engineering design creativity, this study recruited 81 eighth-grade students as participants and employed a non-equivalent-groups quasi-experimental design to examine how VR application influences creativity components and creative performance. A creativity component scale (creative motivation, creative thinking, and professional cognition), a measurement of creative performance, and a cognitive load scale were used to collect data. The study also investigated the ability of VR application to predict creativity components and creative performance, using cognitive load as the mediator. The conclusions are as follows: (1) VR application had marked effects on professional cognition and creative motivation but no effect on creative thinking skills. (2) VR application had marked effects on the novelty and usefulness aspects of creative performance, particularly with respect to usefulness. (3) VR application had marked effects on extraneous and germane cognitive load, but no influence on intrinsic cognitive load, and (4) Both VR application and cognitive load were able to predict creativity components and creative performance. Their abilities to predict creative performance approached an acceptable level. Nevertheless, VR application had no effect on general creative thinking skills; therefore, other teaching strategies are needed to strengthen creative thinking.
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