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24 April 2014
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You are here: BBC Science > Human Body & Mind > Emotions and Instincts > Science of Love

The Science of Flirting

There are certain things you can do that might help your date go with a bang - and turn into something more serious.

Ditch the chat up lines

It can take between 90 seconds and 4 minutes to decide if we fancy someone. But this has little to do with your smooth-talking. As far as attraction goes, here's how we get the message:

  • 55% is through body language
  • 38% is the tone and speed of our voice
  • Only 7% is through what we say

Stare into each others' eyes

A woman's eye

It is thought that asymmetrical features are a sign of underlying genetic problems. Numerous studies in humans have shown that men in particular go for women with symmetrical faces.

New York psychologist, Professor Arthur Arun, has been studying the dynamics of what happens when people fall in love. He has shown that the simple act of staring into each other's eyes has a powerful impact.

He asked two complete strangers to reveal to each other intimate details about their lives. This carried on for an hour and a half. The two strangers were then made to stare into each others eyes without talking for four minutes. Afterwards many of his couples confessed to feeling deeply attracted to their opposite number and two of his subjects even married afterwards.

When we are aroused and interested in what we are looking at our pupils dilate. In medieval Italy, women put belladonna into their eyes to make them look bigger. In fact, bella donna means 'beautiful lady'. However, this is not recommended, as belladonna is a kind of poison!

Match their moves

A couple dancing

When people are attracted to each other, they tend to sit or stand in the same way and copy each other's physical gestures. This is known as 'mirroring'. When someone does this, it marks good communication and shows us that our interest is reciprocated. Mirroring also happens when talking to close friends as well as potential lovers, so be careful as you may misread signs of friendship as signs of love.

Don't play hard to get

Research suggest that playing hard to get doesn't usually work. However, there is a theory that we tend to fancy people who are hard to get for everyone else, but easy for us to get.

A computer generated male and female

Scientists tested this 'selective difficulty' theory by using a computer dating experiment. One woman was keen to meet any of the dates that the computer selected for her. Another played hard to get and wasn't enthusiastic towards any of her computer matches. A third was selective and only showed interest in one of the candidates. Out of all three women, the choosy woman was the most preferred by all the male participants.

Understanding lonely hearts ads

If you wrote a lonely hearts ad, what would it say about you? Does the opposite sex find you more attractive if you describe yourself as sexy or successful, or wealthy or reliable?

Discover the science behind the ads by taking our lonely hearts test.

Understanding lonely hearts ads

Another experiment showed that if people experience fear on a date they often misinterpret that feeling as love. So dates at a theme park are likely to be successful. A bungee jump might seal your relationship for life!

In fact, people who both like the same level of thrills and excitement are more likely to be compatible.

Take our test on sensation seeking and see how your score relates to that of your partner.


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