“Virtually” connected: Can virtual reality technology foster closeness and intimacy in romantic relationships?

Social connections, especially satisfying romantic relationships, are vital for health and well-being. Yet, couples are spending increasingly more time apart, limiting opportunities for connection and intimacy. However, engaging in shared novel activities (i.e. self-expanding activities) can help couples connect and maintain their relationship over time. Indeed, couples who experience more self-expanding opportunities in relationships feel closer to their partner and are more satisfied and connected in their relationship. As such, we will assess the extent to which virtual reality (VR) can be used to simulate face-to-face interactions and provide couples with the opportunity to connect and self-expand when apart. We anticipate that VR will increase perceptions of novelty, as well as perceived intimacy and satisfaction. Hence, we propose two studies testing whether using VR technology simulates face-to-face interactions fostering more closeness and intimacy compared to other forms of mediated communication (e.g., video interactions, instant messaging). Additionally, we seek to assess if orienting couples toward the opportunities for connection and novel experiences using VR compared can bolster feelings of closeness and connection during virtual interactions. Our results will also provide useful information about couple’s experiences using VR and provide Facebook with information about couple’s experiences using Oculus Rift.

Faculty Supervisor:

Amy Muise


Rhonda Balzarini


Facebook Inc.




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