Games and Virtual Environments Lab (GAVEL)

The Games and Virtual Environments Lab (GAVEL) is an interdisciplinary research facility for a human-centered approach to investigating virtual experiences and how they influence the attitudes and behaviors of users. The lab makes forward-thinking inquiries into how interactions in virtual worlds can shift traditional rules and norms of social interactions in the physical world. Our projects apply frameworks of psychosocial and behavioral sciences to explore, test, and evaluate the impact of virtual and augmented environments on a wide range of social issues.

Major areas of research:

  • Attitude and behavior change through virtual experiences
  • Using virtual environments as a tool for empathy and perspective taking
  • Motivation and game play
  • Exploring consumer psychology through virtual worlds
  • Avatars and agents
  • Risk communication with virtual experiences
The Games and Virtual Environments Lab is actively hiring research assistants.  If you are interested in learning more about virtual worlds and how they influence us, please email the Director, Dr. Sun Joo (Grace) Ahn at

Sun Joo “Grace” Ahn

Sun Joo “Grace” Ahn

Director, GAVEL
Associate Professor, Advertising

Dr. Ahn’s main area of research investigates how interactive digital media transform traditional rules of communication and social interactions, looking at how virtual experiences shape the way the way that people think, feel, and behave in the physical world. Her work has helped study the effects of transfer into the physical world in four different contexts: health, consumer psychology, conservation, and education.

Recent news features include:




GAVEL Research

Faculty and graduate students of GAVEL publish a a great deal of research every year. Here is some of the most recent research:

Rewards that undermine customer loyalty? A motivational approach to loyalty programs

Immersive virtual environments, avatars and agents for health

Virtual Exemplars in Health Promotion Campaigns: Heightening Perceived Risk and Involvement to Reduce Soft Drink Consumption in Young Adults

A complete catalog of research involving AR and VR conducted through the GAVEL, can be viewed here.

Associate Professor Sun Joo (Grace) Ahn, left, helps nine-year-old Maddie Lacey of Watkinsville, Ga., interact with the virtual buddy fitness kiosk in the Games and Virtual Environments Lab at Grady College, while Maddie’s mother, Cara Lacey, looks on.
Grace Ahn of Grady faculty leads $3.3 million grant award
Creating sustainable habits to increase physical activity and improve health is a goal many people share. Now, thanks in part to a $3.3 million grant from the National Institutes of Health, researchers at the University of Georgia are using virtual reality to help children develop a more active lifestyle. “The Virtual Fitness Buddy Ecosystem: Using […]
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Grace Ahn was recognized for her work about how user experiences in virtual worlds transform attitudes and behaviors. (Photo by Andrew Tucker)
Sun Joo “Grace” Ahn named Early Career Scholar
Congrats to the great @sunjooahn winner of the Charles B. Knapp Early Career Scholar Award! — Charles N Davis (@GradyDeanUGA) April 21, 2017 Sun Joo “Grace” Ahn, assistant professor of advertising and founding director of Grady’s Games and Virtual Environments Lab, was named the recipient of the Charles B. Knapp Early Career Scholar Award […]
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Grady faculty member sees life through virtual reality
Some people go through life as optimists. Others are pessimists. But, for Sun Joo “Grace” Ahn, assistant professor of advertising at Grady College, she is a realist…a virtual realist. Virtual reality is becoming part of the everyday lexicon for many consumers, but it has been in Ahn’s everyday vocabulary for nearly ten years. “Twenty years […]
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Grace Ahn and Ivanka Pjesivac were recently awarded an AEJMC grant for their study of virtual reality journalism.
Two Grady College professors receive 2017 Emerging Scholar Grant
Grady College professors, Ivanka Pjesivac and Grace Ahn, received grants as 2017 Emerging Scholars for their project on the topic of “Virtual Reality Journalism: Emotions and News Credibility.” The Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication’s awards the $3,500 grant and travel support to winners of its Emerging Scholars Program. This program is one […]
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Grady Research: Consumers more accepting of native advertising
Research finds consumers are more accepting of native advertisements
The line between online content written by journalists and story-like ads that are paid for by specific corporations can be blurry, but, according to a new study, consumers don’t seem to mind—as long as the content meets certain criteria. In a study published recently in American Behavioral Scientist, researchers at the University of Georgia, San […]
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Grady College experts comment on ‘Pokemon Go’
There is no doubt that students know a lot about “Pokemon Go.” However, there are some University of Georgia faculty who know about the location-based game, too. Grady College faculty members Shira Chess and Sun Joo (Grace) Ahn have been sharing their knowledge about the game as media have asked for comments and authored articles. […]
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Grace Ahn featured in UGA Focus on Faculty column
Sun Joo (Grace) Ahn, founding director of the Games and Virtual Environments Lab in the Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication, is exploring how digital technology can be used to encourage better food choices, more physical activity and better STEM learning in children. “My primary area of research lies in communication and more specifically […]
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