Research done at West Virginia University on dating anxiety, lying in romantic relationships and an examination of moral decision-making by gamers took top honors at the recent National Communication Association’s national conference in New Orleans.

Receiving honors in the Communication Apprehension Division were authors Colleen C. Malachowski, a WVU doctoral candidate, and Peggy Rardin McConnell Chair in Communication Studies Melanie Booth-Butterfield. Their paper, “Diminishing Dating Distress to Increase Voice: An Experimental Examination of the Effects of Visualization on Dating Anxiety,” examined the effects of visualization on dating anxiety. Visualization has previously been shown to reduce anxiety in other situations, such as before athletic events or job interviews.

“If a person was practicing visualization, he or she would picture the progression of the date and all of the emotions and sensations that go along with it,” Malachowski said. “By picturing each of the things associated with the date going well, people may reduce the amount of anxiety they feel toward the event.”

Malachowski and Booth-Butterfield’s results show visualization as a valid technique for interpersonal communication to reduce dating anxiety.

Professor Booth-Butterfield also took top paper honors in the Interpersonal Communication Division along with co-author and WVU alumnus Sean M. Horan, assistant professor of communication studies at DePaul University. Their paper entitled, “Understanding the Routine Expression of Deceptive Affection in Romantic Relationships,” provides a clearer picture of how lying may support and maintain romantic relationships.

Current studies suggest that individuals regularly communicate inauthentic affectionate messages to their romantic partners. Yet most studies do not describe this process, what constitutes deceptive affection, and the functions involved. The study reported on in the paper involved a seven-day diary in which participants recorded what they lied about, why they lied, and how they used affection to deceive their romantic partners. Results indicate that participants lied about their own feelings, feelings about their partners or feelings about the situation. They communicated deceptive affection using verbal messages of confirmation or avoidance, and also incorporated nonverbal cues. Motives for the deception included face-saving, conflict management or avoidance, and emotion management.

Assistant Professor of Communication Studies Nicholas David Bowman along with two German colleagues, Leyla Dogruel (Free University of Berlin) and Sven Joeckel (Universitat Erfurt) received the top paper honors in the Mass Communication Division. Their research, “Adolescents, Morality and Interactive Entertainment: The Influence of Moral Salience on Actions and Entertainment Experience in Interactive Media,” examined the moral decision making of U.S. and German adolescents using interactive media. In an experimental design, participants from the two countries used a computer simulation where they were confronted with the decision to violate or uphold various aspects of morality.

“Games encourage the internalization and psychological merging of a player’s and a character’s mind, a multidimensional concept known as character attachment. Data from our study suggest that dimensions of character attachment are useful in understanding both pro- and anti-social gaming motivations,” said Bowman.

The group reports that pro-social gamers feel a greater sense of control over their characters, while anti-social gamers are more likely to suspend their disbelief of the game environment and not take responsibility for their virtual actions. Pro-social gaming was more prevalent in older gamers, and younger male game characters were motivated by anti-social reasons.

Over 5,200 people participated in the National Communication Association’s annual national conference.

For more information, contact Nicholas Bowman at


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