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Participants needed in study to explore how virtual reality can reduce social anxiety

Psychologists at Nottingham Trent University are looking for participants for a study to explore how virtual reality can help people with social anxiety to overcome their fear of speaking in public.

Virtual Reality
Individuals with virtual reality equipment

The study uses virtual reality exposure therapy (VRET) to place participants in a simulated lecture theatre environment.

Using a head-mounted display and an app developed by the University’s School of Science and Technology, users are able to control the audience size and change their expressions to positive, neutral or negative. They also have the option to change other aspects in the virtual environment such as their distance from the audience and the number of prompts they can receive on the speech topic of going on holiday.

Participants will deliver three 20-minute speeches within a virtual environment across three weeks. Public-speaking anxiety, social anxiety and fear of negative evaluation will be measured after each VRET session and at one-month follow-up.

The study monitors participants’ physiological reactions to the changes in the virtual environment while they deliver a talk about going on holiday. A headband, which records electrical activity of the brain, measures how negative or anxious the person feels, while a wristband tracks the heart rate and arousal state of the user.

Previous participants have reported a significant improvement on measures of public speaking anxiety and performance-related social anxiety.

Dr Preethi Premkumar, senior lecture and lead researcher, said: “We’re testing the effectiveness of VRET, because it can work just as well as real-life exposure therapy. Because it is self-guided, VRET empowers the user to have personal control over their exposure to the simulated social environment, without risking over-exposing them to social threat.

“Monitoring participants’ physical reactions to these virtual social stressor can help use to determine precisely how people’s social anxiety is affected and how the virtual exposure therapy can further reduce their social anxiety.”

Members of the public interested in taking part in the study must complete a short screening survey. If eligible, they will be invited to take part in three sessions during a three-week period at Nottingham Trent University, with £45 in vouchers as payment. For further information email Preethi Premkumar

  • Notes for editors

    Nottingham Trent University was named University of the Year 2017 at the Times Higher Education Awards and Modern University of the Year in the Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide 2018. The award recognises NTU for its strong student satisfaction, quality of teaching, overall student experience and engagement with employers.

    Nottingham Trent University (NTU) has been awarded the highest, gold, rating in the Government’s Teaching Excellence Framework for its outstanding teaching and learning.

    NTU is one of the largest UK universities with nearly 28,000 students and more than 3,500 staff across four campuses, contributing £496m to the UK economy every year. It is one of the most environmentally-friendly universities, containing some of the country’s most inspiring and efficient award-winning buildings.

    The University is passionate about creating opportunities and its extensive outreach programme is designed to enable Nottingham Trent to be a vehicle for social mobility. NTU is the sixth biggest recruiter of students from disadvantaged backgrounds in the country and 95.6% of the its graduates go on to employment or further education within six months of leaving.

    NTU is home to world-class research, winning The Queen’s Anniversary Prize in 2015 - the highest national honour for a UK university. It recognised the University’s pioneering projects to improve weapons and explosives detection in luggage, enable safer production of powdered infant formula and combat food fraud.

    With an international student population of approximately 2,600 from around 100 countries, the University prides itself on its global outlook.

Participants needed in study to explore how virtual reality can reduce social anxiety

Published on 13 March 2019
  • Subject area: Psychology, sociology, health and social care
  • Category: Press office; School of Social Sciences

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