Is she flirting with you? Probably not, according to research

December 15, 2009 at 11:53 am | Posted in Dating Statistics, Dating Tips, News | Leave a comment
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The scene: Crunch Fitness, San Francisco. Panting Guy finishes his workout on a prime window treadmill –the one where the headphone jacks still work– sweat pouring way more profusely from his face than a 20 minute workout should produce. Anxious Cardio Girl approaches, “No, I got it,” she says smiling, and wipes away all traces of his biological material from the machine before he makes his half-assed attempt at cleaning.

He thinks, she totally wants me, and continues to track her every move at the gym

She thinks, Why is this guy staring at me? Make him stop!

But it’s no one’s fault — people often misinterpret friendliness for flirting, although comparatively speaking, the male brain does it more often.

Researchers tested 280 Indiana University male and female undergraduate students’ ability to pick up on social signals. They asked the students to categorizes pictures of women as friendly, sexually interested, sad or rejecting. Although you’d think men would be experts on female body language, on average men mistakenly identified 12 percent of the ‘friendly’ women as ‘sexually interested,’ while women misinterpreted only 8.7 percent of the photos.

But men fared even worse when they were shown pictures of women flirting, and incorrectly identified 37.8 percent of them as being friendly. Women fared only slightly better by mistaking only 31.9 percent of the flirting guys as friendly.

The reason? Call it body language illiteracy.

Previously, scientists often reasoned that young men tend to “over-sexualize their social environment,” but this study’s findings suggest that women are better at interpreting facial expressions and body language than their male counterparts.

For women, this could explain a lot of failed attempts, according to an article in the Daily Mail:

The researchers also found that women overestimate men’s ability to pick up on sexual signals. They argue that many females wrongly believe that the men are well aware of their attempts to woo, but are just not interested in responding.

“Failure to pursue could be an indicator of misperception but could easily be explained by noninterest the scientists write in the journal Psychological Science.

However, when intentions are on the other side of the spectrum and men think a woman’s friendliness is a come on, they’re likely to laugh about it with their friends:

In contrast, women are very aware that males get the wrong end of the stick when they are simply being friendly.

This is because, the researchers argue, men who misconstrue a friendly gesture as a come-on are more likely to follow through with inappropriate behaviour.

Such embarrassing encounters will lodge more keenly in a woman’s memory, and she will also be more likely to discuss it with her friends.

Ouch. So you’re damned if you do, but you could be missing out on something fun if you don’t.

Source: Indiana University via Daily Mail

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