Scientists Look Into Flirting. Find Best Ways To Improve Success For Everyone

The research group from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU), Norway, Bucknell University in Pennsylvania and the State University of New York (SUNY) at Oswego has found effective flirting tactics that almost always work for everyone and in every situation.

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Some people are experts at flirting and succeed at it more often than others. These people know what works best in every situation. But many people never flirt or fail spectacularly.

One particular flirting technique almost works for everyone in every situation. But everything doesn’t need to work every time.

“What’s most effective depends on your gender and whether the purpose of the flirtation is a long-term or short-term relationship,” said Leif Edward Ottesen Kennair, a Professor in the Department of Psychology at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology.

Kennair, a member of the research group, has studied about the flirting techniques acquired by people of Norway and the USA.


About The Study
The researchers surveyed 1000 students in Norway and the USA. The participants rated how effective the 40 different types of flirting were for a short-term or long-term relationship, and whether the flirter was a female or male. Students were randomly assigned to the four versions of the questionnaire.

For the study, researchers considered the participants' age, boldness, whether the person was interested to have a relationship or not and mate value. Mate value means how attractive the person is in the dating market.

“Individual differences in age, religiosity, extroversion, personal attractiveness and preferences for short-term sexual relationships had little or no effect on how effective respondents considered the various flirting tactics to be,” said Mons Bendixen, a Professor in the Department of Psychology at NTNU.

The personality of a person may therefore be less relevant in how he/ she judges flirting behaviour in others.

“However, we do believe that personal characteristics affect the type of flirting people employ themselves,” said Bendixen.


The Real Meaning Of Flirting
According to Professor Kennair, flirting involves different signals that people send to each other. It’s done to attract potential partners. Men and women both flirt to get the attention of the desired partner, and perhaps to achieve a sexual or romantic result from it.

“Flirting can be done verbally as well as non-verbally," said T. Joel Wade, a Presidential Professor of Psychology at Bucknell University in the USA and a co-author of the study.

People flirt to attract a potential partner, despite whether they stop before it gets that far or not.

But what exactly works?


Purpose and Gender Play a Major Role
“People consider signals that you’re sexually available to be the most effective for women who are looking for a short-term relationship,” said Kennair.

Friendly contact like hugging or kissing the cheeks doesn't work every time. Women who want to have a short-lived fling from flirting need to signalize this to the potential partner.

Different flirting tactics work in different mating contexts.

“Signs of generosity and a willingness to commit work best for men who are looking for a long-term relationship,” added Bendixen.

Men who want to keep a partner for a lifetime should not come across as ungenerous or as someone who prefers to change partners frequently.


The Strongest Weapon Of Flirting
If someone wants to flirt but feels hesitant to do so and does not know how to proceed, then the strongest weapon of flirting may help them. Humour is a powerful weapon of flirting that always works to some degree for everyone.

“People think that humour, or being able to make another person laugh, is most effective for men who are looking for a long-term relationship. It’s least effective for women who are looking for a one-night stand. But laughing or giggling at the other person’s jokes is an effective flirtation tactic for both sexes,” said Kennair.

“It is not only effective to be funny, but for women, it is very important that you show your potential partner that you think they are funny,” added Rebecca Burch, a co-author from SUNY Oswego, US.

Thus, one should add humour to the toolkit to feel confident while flirting. But people are advised not to start with that.

“Smiling and eye contact are important. Then you can build your flirting skills from that base, using more advanced tactics,” said Kennair.


Theory Supporting Previous Findings
The researchers used the theory of sexual strategies as a foundation for their work. They applied the variants of this theory in other contexts that deal with how women and men proceed to find their potential partners. This was the first time the theory was used to examine the effectiveness of flirting.

“The findings fit perfectly with what we know from the literature on self-promotion. It also seems that flirting is largely the same in the US and Norway,” said Kennair.

These are the same flirting tactics that people believe are effective in both Norway and the USA. Flirting is only dependent to a lesser extent, such as on the initial contact, people's body language and the level of goodness.

"This indicates that effective flirting is largely universal, which is not surprising since the motivations for finding a mate are partly biological," said Wade.

"However, this also shows that people fine-tune their flirting techniques depending on what is emphasized in their culture, which is a smart, flexible strategy," added Burch.


The detailed study has been published in the journal Evolutionary Psychology.



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