Researchers from the University of Kansas have recently looked into whether or not flirting is real, and if it actually works.
The new study — published in the Journal of Sex Research — looked into if flirting has a particular facial cue or expression, and whether it actually works.
Facial expression can indicate romantic interest in someone, according to the research. And the expression can communicate interest between two parties — even if it’s nonverbal.
Across our six studies, we found most men were able to recognize a certain female facial expression as representing flirting, said Omri Gillath, professor of psychology at KU, who co-wrote the paper, in a news release. It has a unique morphology, and it’s different from expressions that have similar features — for example, smiling — but aren’t identified by men as flirting expression.
- The women in the study — some of whom were professional actresses and others volunteers — were asked to flirt as normal or to follow written guidelines for what many consider to be flirting.
- The study found women “found some women are more effective than others in effectively conveying a flirtatious facial cue, while some men are better at recognizing this cue. Beyond these individual differences, a few expressions were identified by most (if not all) men as flirting.”
Our findings support the role of flirtatious expression in communication and mating initiation, Gillath said in a release. For the first time, not only were we able to isolate and identify the expressions that represent flirting, but we were also able to reveal their function — to activate associations related with relationships.