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Psychology student rewarded for key role in Virtual Reality research

March 30, 2022

A psychology student has been awarded an Edge Hill Excellence Scholarship for advancing the department’s research in Virtual Reality (VR). 

A psychology student has been awarded an Edge Hill Excellence Scholarship for advancing the department’s research in Virtual Reality (VR). 

Third-year undergraduate Juris Savostijanovs, from Blackburn with Darwen, is combining his passion for cyberpsychology and digital technologies with his programming expertise and experience as a support worker for people with complex care needs. 

Juris is helping the Department of Psychology transfer real-life experiments into their digital versions, encompassing 2D, 3D and VR. 

He sees VR as becoming part of mainstream academic research:  

“Virtual and Augmented Reality is a ground-breaking technology which enables us to deliver immersive and engaging experiences that extend beyond the limits of the physical realm. As it’s life-like, it allows us to transfer ourselves into fantasy and hyper-realistic landscapes of other-worldly views. These are simply unattainable through typical flat-screen technologies. The implications for research are vast, with the potential to benefit individuals with social anxieties, PTSD, poor mental health and those lacking communication skills.” 

Psychology Student Juris Savostijanovs using virtual reality headset

He has produced applications relating to ‘Theory of Mind’ – our ability to interpret, predict and empathise with others. The research focuses on individuals diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Condition (ASC) as they often find it difficult to see something from another person’s perspective.  

One of the applications trialled by students at Edge Hill University involved the user drumming in virtual reality to a well-known beat of a song while paired up. Synchronised movements have been shown to elicit selfless and positive attitudes towards others. 

Juris’s £1000 scholarship was a re-investment in his education, helping him buy a portable VR headset to enable remote research across specialist services and schools. 

Juris’s care work provides him with experience and hands-on insight into the practical applications of psychology. And his studies give him the knowledge and confidence to help those with an array of physical and mental health conditions. Juris’s tutor Dr Gray Atherton recognised these mutual benefits in nominating him for the Scholarship: 

“Juris is not simply a gifted student. He possesses exemplary interpersonal skills and a keen desire to improve the world. He brings his two worlds together – exploring how VR can be used to benefit those with conditions such as autism and the possibilities in psychological research using VR.” 

Psychology student Juris Savostijanovs with a virtual reality headset on
Juris Savostijanovs

Juris has collaborated with universities as far afield as Hungary and Japan and has recently had his first co-authored undergraduate publication. It focuses on gendered violence and sexualised representations in video games, exploring the effects on gender-related attitudes (Cross et al., 2022

Juris is looking to continue his studies at Edge Hill with a Masters in Research as he is impressed with the University’s investment in research and the prospects of its students.  

On-Course Excellence Scholarships are awarded to students that are proud of something they have achieved and can demonstrate determination, commitment and achievement outside their studies. Edge Hill University has a broad programme of scholarships for prospective and current students, recognising practical and academic excellence.  

Edge Hill’s BSc (Hons) Psychology degree course is accredited by the British Psychological Society. Students learn about the science of mind and behaviour and examine what makes individuals unique.

March 30, 2022


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