Virtually in love: The role of anthropomorphism in virtual romantic relationships

Mayu Koike*, Steve Loughnan, Sarah C. E. Stanton

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

Romantic relationships are a cornerstone of human nature. Today, these relationships can potentially be fulfilled by virtual agents. Although previous psychological research has examined how human needs can be met by anthropomorphized agents, it has neglected virtual romantic relationships. This paper introduces the concept of romantic anthropomorphism (i.e. giving a non-human agent human-like characteristics in a romantic context) to help understand virtual romance. In three laboratory studies, we used romantic video games (RVGs) to examine how romantic anthropomorphism predicts relationship authenticity, desire for real-world relationship and mood (Studies 1A, 1B and 2) as well as real-world interpersonal behaviour (Study 2). Study 1A revealed that romantic anthropomorphism of a virtual agent predicted desire for a real-world relationship with the virtual agent and greater positive affect via feeling that the relationship built with the virtual agent was authentic. Study 1B replicated these results using a larger sample and a different RVG. Study 2 replicated these results, but revealed that playing RVGs failed to predict real-world behaviour in a subsequent interaction with a human confederate. This research identifies a unique way that people find connection in the modern world and provides novel insight into the fields of anthropomorphism, virtual interactions and relationship science.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)600 - 616
JournalBritish Journal of Social Psychology
Issue number1
Early online date1 Aug 2022
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2023

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • anthropomorphism
  • romantic relationships
  • virtual agents
  • mood
  • behaviour


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