Research published in Human Ethology Bulletin examined which flirtatious actions are considered most effective.
“There was a dearth of research examining flirtation from an evolutionary theory perspective, and I find research on mate attraction strategies interesting,” study author T. Joel Wade of Bucknell University told PsyPost. “Also, this research grew out of some earlier work I did looking at nonverbal flirtation.”
The study of 226 U.S. adults found that men viewed sexual flirtations from women as the most effective, while women viewed flirtations that signaled exclusivity and caring as the most effective.
“Men are not as good at flirtation as women are, and the sexes differ with respect to the opposite-sex flirtatious actions they perceive as most effective,” Wade said.
For example, the male participants rated having sex, rubbing against, and dancing with a man as more effective way for a woman to flirt. Women, on the other hand, rated asking out, acting interested in, complimenting, doing favors for, spending time with, asking for help, calling, and giving flowers to a woman as more effective flirtation tactics for men.
The study also found that men overestimated the effectiveness of higher intensity actions.
The findings indicate that “flirtation is influenced by biological motivations,” Wade told PsyPost.
The study results support theories of sexual strategy that have emerged from evolutionary psychology: men value sexual access more than women, while women value commitment more than men.
“A major caveat is that this research looked at perceived effectiveness rather than actual effectiveness,” Wade explained. “Additional research examining the actual effectiveness of these flirtatious actions is needed. Additionally, research examining the perceived effectiveness of flirtations for sexual orientations other than heterosexual is also needed.”
The study, “Sex and the Perceived Effectiveness of Flirtation Techniques“, was co-authored by Andrea Feldman.