13 Facts About Flirting That Single — and Married — People Should Know

Oh, hey.Flickr / zenjazzygeek

What could be more terrifying than talking to someone you're attracted to? 

Luckily, social science has figured out what makes flirting work — or not.

Below, we've rounded up some of the most intriguing findings on the art of flirtation, so you can saunter over to the object of your affection with confidence.

This is an update of an article originally posted by Drake Baer.

People flirt for six different reasons

In a 2004 review of the literature on flirting, Northern Illinois University professor David Dryden Henningsen identified six different motivations for the behavior: 

• Sex: trying to get in bed
• Fun: treating it like a sport
• Exploring: trying to see what it would be like to be in a relationship
• Relational: trying to increase the intimacy of a relationship
• Esteem: increasing one's own self esteem
• Instrumental: trying to get something from the other person

In that study, Henningsen asked 101 female and 99 male students to write out a hypothetical flirty conversation between a man and a woman, then identify the motivations for the things they said. 

The behaviors broke down along gender norms: Men were significantly more likely to have a sexual motivation, while women tended to have a relational one.

Couples need to flirt, too

Like Tinder, cats, and dying alone, flirting is usually associated with single people. 

But couples need to know how to flirt, too.

After studying 164 married people for a 2012 study, University of Kentucky researcher Brandi Frisby noted that most of them flirted — by playing "footsies" or whispering in their partner's ear, for example — as a means of maintaining and emphasizing intimacy. Oftentimes, she wrote in her paper, married couples flirted to "create a private world with the spouse." 

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