Who You Are Can Predict What You Say on a Virtual Date: Traits as Predictors of Communication Patterns of Young Men Who Have Sex With Men

Liyuan Wang, Ashley Brown, Lynn C. Miller


Using virtual environments (VE), we examine—for the first time—how individuals’ traits predict “first date,” in-the-moment conversational choices. We look at how attachment anxiety, avoidance, and Behavioral Inhibition System (BIS) predict virtual conversational choices (i.e., to dismiss, deny, or reciprocate in virtual conversations during a virtual date). We tested this possibility through socially optimized learning in virtual environments (SOLVE-IT), a web-based, interactive 3D video game intervention designed for young men who have sex with men (YMSM) to reduce risky sexual behaviors. Data analyzed were drawn from 358 HIV-negative, self-identified MSM aged from 18 to 24, who were part of the SOLVE-IT intervention. Using ordinary least squares regression, we found that both BIS and attachment styles affect in-the-moment conversational responses and that attachment moderates the effects of BIS on those responses. The implications of these findings are discussed.


relational messages, SOLVE-IT, interpersonal communication, virtual dating, HIV

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