Flirting might not be as obvious as some might have you believe.
According to new research, people are really bad at detecting flirting, and their “wingmen aren’t better” at noticing the hints either. “If you think someone is not interested in you, you are probably right, they are not interested,” Jeffrey Hall, an associate professor of communication studies and author of the 2013 book, The Five Flirting Styles, said in a news release. “But if someone is, you probably missed it.”
The study called, “Accurately Detecting Flirting: Error Management Theory, the Traditional Sex Script, and Flirting Base Rate” was published by the Communication Research department of the University of Kansas. The researchers studied 52 pairs of single, straight college students. They asked the pairs to sit in a room and had them talk for 10 to 12 minutes about what they thought the study was about. When the study was over, the students were asked to fill out a questionnaire in separate rooms, and they had to write down if they flirted and if they thought their pair had flirted, too.
The participants were 80 percent accurate at detecting when their counterpart was not flirting with them. However, they were oblivious when it came to knowing when someone was flirting with them. Men were 36 percent correct and women 18 percent.
“Behavior that is flirtatious is hard to see, and there are several reason for that,” Hall said. “People aren’t going to do it in obvious ways because they don’t want to be embarrassed, flirting looks a lot like being friendly, and we are not accustomed to having our flirting validated so we can get better at seeing it.”
Hall also conducted another study where he had more than 250 people watch six one-minute video clips of the first study. Only one person was shown this video at a time. They researchers found out that third-party observers were not more accurate at detecting flirting. They were 66 percent accurate when flirting didn’t occur and 38 percent when it did occur.
Females were least accurate when it came to detecting males flirting, as they were only correct 22 percent of the time. Women and men alike had an easier time detecting when females were flirting.
“It doesn’t appear to be the case that men have some intuition about women and women have some intuition about men. But it does seem that women are just a little more clear if they are interested or not,” Hall said.