Below are short summaries of my projects and their associated publications. If you are interested in reading more about them, please check out my Research Gate page.

Breathing Room 

Virtual reality (VR) provides a promising medium for delivering mood-regulating environments to augment existing therapies. In this study, a series of interviews were conducted with individuals with major depressive disorder (MDD) or persistent depressive disorder (dysthymia) to identify issues with current treatment standards and successful coping strategies. In response to participants’ experiences with depression and its treatment, we created three web-based virtual environments.


Avatar Creation in Social Experiences

From Bitmoji to gaming characters, everyone has an avatar these days…but does everyone feel represented in the avatar creation process? What are the hidden norms and values that users engage in when they are creating their avatars? And how does this affect how people are ultimately represented and how well they relate to their avatar? In this study, I interview people regarding their avatar creation experiences on VR character creation platforms to see how traditionally underrepresented users fit into seemingly pre-determined identity molds.

Pandita, S., Humphreys, L., Won, A.S. (2021) “The Paradox of Customization: Negotiating racial identity with “multiple choice” in avatar creation.” Paper presented at 71st Annual International Association of Communication Conference, May 27-31, Virtual Conference.

Previous Projects

Affective Embodiment

Can physical manifestations of emotions, such as open and closed body posture, affect how we perceive ourselves? In this study, we are interested in exploring the notion that affect can be influenced by the perceived display of emotions in one’s own virtual avatar. More specifically that one’s body posture contains emotional information, which is then used to determine one’s own affect, working as a feedback loop for processing one’s emotions.

Pandita, S., Yee, J., & Won, A. S. (2020, March). Affective Embodiment: Embodying emotions through postural representation in VR. In 2020 IEEE Conference on Virtual Reality and 3D User Interfaces Abstracts and Workshops (VRW) (pp. 617-618). IEEE.


Learning Moon Phases in Virtual Reality 

Moon phases are a tricky concept for astronomy students to master due to difficulties in visualizing the changes in phase as a part of the sun-moon-earth system. VR aids in visualization and allows students to control and interact with the moon phases by providing multiple perspectives of the moon phases as it relates to the position of the earth and sun. In this study, we compared the learning outcomes of students who participated in a VR guided moon phases learning activity, a desktop guided activity, and the traditional hands-on (ball and stick model) activity. We found that there were no differences in learning outcomes between the three modalities, however, participants preferred and reported higher satisfaction and presence with the VR intervention. 

Madden, J., Pandita, S., Schuldt, J. P., Kim, B., S. Won, A., & Holmes, N. G. (2020). Ready student one: Exploring the predictors of student learning in virtual reality. PloS one15(3), e0229788.


Social Presence and Perception 

Is our pain threshold affected by the perceived social presence of others? Social presence is the “sense of being with another” through physical or digital space. In this study we place individuals in a digital recreation of our lab space and a foreign lab space as they chat with a conversational partner while undergoing a pain task. Another question this study serves to answer is if social presence in virtual reality differs from social presence in the context of instant messaging or other computer-mediated communicative (CMC) modalities.

Won, A. S., Pandita, S., & Kruzan, K. P. (2020). Social Interaction and Pain Threshold in Virtual Reality. Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking23(12), 829-845.