One Flirting Technique Almost Always Works, According To Psychologists

Eye contact is important, but there are better techniques. Image credit: HBRH/

A new study from psychologists at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology claims to have found the most effective flirting techniques for men and women.

The researchers, who published their findings in the journal Evolutionary Psychology, looked at college students in the US and Norway, all of whom were heterosexual. The volunteer participants were sent questionnaires, asking them to rate how effective 40 different types of flirting were when looking for a short or long-term relationship, and based on whether the flirter was male or female. The researchers also looked at the participants' own extroversion levels, age, how religious they were, how willing they were to be in a relationship, as well as how attractive they are in the dating market.

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

For women looking for short-term relationships – a fling or a one-night stand, for example – the most effective technique was fairly unsurprising.

“People consider signals that you’re sexually available to be the most effective for women who are looking for a short-term relationship,” Kennair said. Friendly contact such as hugging or a friendly kiss on the cheek isn't enough in those situations, and so women who want a quick fling are better off using cues that highlight sexual availability, such as rubbing against potential partners, moving closer, and making body contact.

Men looking for short-term flings could not rely on just one technique.

"The tactics that were judged most effective for women for a one-night stand were exclusively sexual or physical," the team wrote in the study. "In contrast, men were judged more effective if they, in addition to physical and sexual tactics, also smiled, showed interest in conversations, gave compliments, and made her laugh."

The team found that for men seeking longer-term relationships, “signs of generosity and a willingness to commit works best". However, if you're looking for more general advice on flirting, there was one type that appeared to be universally effective. 

“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,” Kennair said in the statement. This held true across US and Norway participants in the study. 

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

If you have trouble being funny, Kennair recommends that you begin with another effective flirting technique – smiling and eye contact – before working on the other skills from that baseline.


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