The Science Of Flirting: How To Decipher Subtle Signs of Flirting

The Science Of Flirting

Those are just a few signs of women’s interest. Other researchers wanted to create a catalog of women’s flirting behavior by observing over 200 women in a singles bar.6 They identified 52 flirting behaviors. Some of the most common behaviors included smiling, glancing around the room, solitary dancing, and laughing.

Here’s the problem. These are common flirting behaviors, but they aren’t clear-cut signs of actual romantic interest. Women could simply be smiling, looking around the room, and laughing for completely non-flirtatious reasons. Subtlety reigns. 

What You Want vs. What You Get

It would be a lot easier to accurately pick up on flirting if the flirters of the world were simply more direct and obvious about their intentions. Incidentally, research shows that most people prefer direct flirting.7 But would you commit to doing that yourself? Doubtful.

It ruins the intrigue, the mystery, and if you’re honest, some of the fun. If you’re not willing to be more direct, it isn’t fair to expect the same of others. In fact, research finds that how people would flirt themselves didn’t match how they hoped others would try to flirt with them.8 

Related: 5 Body Language Signs Of Attraction Backed By Science

Alas, detecting flirtation with 100% accuracy is likely impossible. But, by learning a little more about the science of flirting, you may be a little more effective at sending and interpreting subtle signals.

Check out the new book of Gary W. Lewandowski Jr., Stronger Than You Think: The 10 Blind Spots That Undermine Your Relationship…and How to See Past Them, to know more about relationships, and how to handle them.

Want to know more about the science of flirting? Check this video out below!

Science of flirting


1. La France, B. H., Henningsen, D. D., Oates, A., & Shaw, C. M. (2009). Social-sexual interactions? Meta-analyses of sex differences in perceptions of flirtatiousness, seductiveness, and promiscuousness. Communication Monographs, 76(3), 263-285. doi:10.1080/03637750903074701

2. Whitty, M. T. (2004). Cyber-flirting: An examination of men's and women's flirting behaviour both offline and on the internet. Behaviour Change, 21, 115-126.

3. Hall, J. A., Xing, C., & Brooks, S. (2014). Accurately detecting flirting: Error management theory, the traditional sexual script, and flirting base rate. Communication Research, 42, 939-958. doi: 10.1177/0093650214534972

4. Grammer, K. (1990). Strangers meet Laughter and nonverbal signs of interest in opposite-sex encounters. Journal of Nonverbal Behavior, 14(4), 209-236. doi:10.1007/BF00989317

5. Grammer, K., Kruck, K., Juette, A., & Fink, B. (2000). Non-verbal behavior as courtship signals: The role of control and choice in selecting partners. Evolution and Human Behavior, 21, 371-390.

6. Moore, M. M. (1985). Nonverbal courtship patterns in women: Context and consequences. Ethology & Sociobiology, 6(4), 237-247. doi:10.1016/0162-3095(85)90016-0 

7. Wade, J., Butrie, L., Hoffman, K. (2009). Women’s direct opening lines are perceived as most effective. Personality and Individual Differences, 47, 145-149.

8. White, J., Lorenz, H., Perilloux, C., & Lee, A. (2018). Creative Casanovas: Mating strategy predicts using—but not preferring—atypical flirting tactics. Evolutionary Psychological Science, 4(4), 443–455.

Written By: Gary W. Lewandowski Jr.  
Originally Appeared In: Psychology Today
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The Science Of Flirting: How To Decipher Subtle Signs of Flirting
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The Science Of Flirting: How To Decipher Subtle Signs of Flirting
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The Science Of Flirting: How To Decipher Subtle Signs of Flirting
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The Science Of Flirting: How To Decipher Subtle Signs of Flirting
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Gary W. Lewandowski Jr.

Dr. Gary W. Lewandowski Jr. is the author of STRONGER THAN YOU THINK: The 10 Blind Spots That Undermine Your Relationship…and How to See Past Them. He is also an award-winning teacher, researcher, relationship expert, and professor at Monmouth University. His work has been featured in outlets such as The Washington Post,, Daily Mail, Business Insider, The New Republic, Time, the New York Times, The Atlantic, VICE, CNN, and NPR. His articles about relationships have been enjoyed by over 3.5 million readers and his TED talk, Break-Ups Don't Have to Leave You Broken, has been viewed by 2 million people. He currently writes the Psychology of Relationships blog on Psychology Today.View Author posts