Posts Tagged ‘glances’

Magic of Flirting Explained: The Origin And The HowTo’s

March 30th, 2010


Why And How We Flirt


Flirting - Whisper


One of the reasons we flirt is that we just can’t help ourselves — we’re programmed to do it by biology or culture. It’s so natural, we barely even notice we do it. Tilting a head to expose the neck, smiling or laughing at something that really wasn’t funny, moving closer to the person making unfunny jokes, mimicking their actions. Our body language is perhaps the most subtle expression of what we’re really thinking and feeling, and is a crucial component of the courting dance known as flirting. The Max Planck Institute in Germany filmed African tribes in the 1960’s and found that the African women did the exact same prolonged stare followed by a head tilt away with a little smile that he saw in America.

Though cheesy pick-up lines abound, a lot is conveyed even before words are uttered. A prolonged gaze or arched eyebrow gives clues to the person across the bar that you’re interested without having to explicitly ask about his/her sign. Though the statistics differ, some attribute almost 80 percent of our first impressions to our stance and swagger. Most experts agree it takes between 90 seconds and 4 minutes to decide if we’re attracted to someone.


55% of the impression we perceive from someone is through our body language.

33% is from the tone, speed and nuance of our voice.

Only 7% is from what we’re actually saying.


And because flirting helps both animals and humans find mates faster and easier, it is an evolutionary trait hard-wired in our brains. Mice twitch their noses at potential mates, colorful peacocks strut around for admiring peahens, and pigeons puff their chests to look buff. As much as we have moved on from mice and feathers, we do much of the same, for the exact same reasons.

Some evolutionary biologists suggest that those who were pros at flirting maneuvers were more successful in quickly finding a mate and reproducing, and that the behavior therefore became widespread in all humans. “A lot of people feel flirting is part of the universal language of how we communicate, especially nonverbally.” says Jeffry Simpson, director of the social psychology program at the University of Minnesota.

Simpson is currently studying the roles that attraction and flirting play during different times of a woman’s ovulation cycle. His research suggests that women who are ovulating are more attracted to flirty men. “The guys they find appealing tend to have characteristics that are attractive in the short term, which include some flirtatious behaviors.” he says.

He’s not sure why women behave this way, but it follows that men who have sex with ovulating women have a greater chance of procreating and passing on those flirty genes. But this is an unconscious choice, just as flirting isn’t always intentional. “With a lot of it, especially the nonverbal stuff, people may not be fully aware that they’re doing it.” says Simpson. “You don’t see what you look like. People may emit flirtatious cues and not be fully aware of how powerful they are.”

But for the rest of you, you know who you are. Once you move into the verbal phase of flirting, it’s pretty much all intentional.

Flirtation is a game we play — a dance in which everyone knows the moves. “People can flirt outrageously without intending anything.” says Timothy Perper, who’s been researching flirting for 30 years. “Flirting captures the interest of the other person and says ‘Would you like to play?”

The uncertainty of flirting is one of the most exhilarating things about the game. “Flirting opens a window of potential. Not yes, not no.” says Perper. “So we engage ourselves in this complex game of maybe.” The game is anything but new — the first published guide on how to flirt was written about 2,000 years ago, Perper says, by author Ovid.

Once we’ve learned the game of maybe, it becomes second nature to us. Long after we need to play it, we’re still occupied by it because we’re better at it than at other games, and sometimes it becomes a social fallback position.

“We all learn rules for how to behave in certain situations, and this makes it easier for people to know how to act, even when nervous.” says Antonia Abbey, a psychology professor at Wayne State University.

Just as we learn a kind of script for how to behave in a restaurant or at a business meeting, she suggests, we learn a script for talking to the opposite sex. “We often enact these scripts without even thinking.” she says. “For some women and men, the script may be so well learned that flirting is a comfortable strategy for interacting with others.” In other words, when in doubt, we flirt.

Flirting Club


Genetic Peacockery


Because flirting is an easy way for us to display our genes, mating potential, and interest, nature put a lot toward its success. This is one of the reasons why some males birds have exotic plumes, why elk carry hefty antlers (a sign of a healthy immune system), and why male fiddler crabs have such large claws. He waves his in the air, alerting females to his whereabouts, and signaling them to come closer for a better look at his burrow, colorful shell, and flashy claw.

Much in the same way, we’re physically programmed to indicate interest almost before we mentally have a say in it. Slight actions reveal a lot. Stance, eye movement, and gestures like leaning forward to talk to the person, or quick eyebrow raises are what scientists call contact engagement, signaling to the other mammal that you’re prepared for things to potentially get physical.


Moves Send Messages


By studying humans in their natural courting habitat (usually bars), scientists have been able to document the movements we make when we’re interested in someone else. As it turns out, we’re all quite predictable. A woman smiles, raises her eyebrows, opens her eyes wide, holds a gaze, fidgets with her hair, lowers and tilts her head, and laughs. A man might jut out his chin, try to make his chest appear as large as possible, unconsciously flex an arm, laugh aloud, and smile. But what do all these ridiculous gestures mean?

By comparing our actions with those of animals, it becomes clear that moves have messages. A woman tilts her head and shows off her neck as a sign of vulnerability and submission. Dogs do this all the time. When a male dog is approach, female dog turns her head and flattens her ears as if to say, “I’m a lover, not a fighter. Don’t bite.” The male dog naturally assumes the taller, dominant stance. Female also steals sideways glances, just as we do when flirting, to show she’s demure and hard to get, yet interested.

Flirting Juice


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