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How to Get Noticed: The Sexy Science of Flirting

FlourishAnyway is an Industrial/Organizational psychologist committed to uplifting and educating others to be reach their full potential.

She has this flirting thing down, but do you? Hair flips and lip licking are signs a female is feeling flirty.

She has this flirting thing down, but do you? Hair flips and lip licking are signs a female is feeling flirty.

The Purpose of Flirting

Flirting is an intricate dance, an advertisement of interest which begins with a glance. It's a giggle, a toss of the hair, a sway of the hips, a puffed out upper torso, a swagger... .

Hard-wired into our DNA, flirting involves a repertoire of gestures designed to quickly and safely assess the value of potential mates.

Attractiveness can be gauged in less than a tenth of a second, and whether we realize it or not, we use flirtation to exchange information about general health and reproductive fitness of potential mates.1

There is a science behind why we flirt the way we do. The following five basic tips can help you get noticed during your next flirting encounter.

Are you flirting for fun? Looking for a hook-up? Want to heat things up with your spouse? What you do with these tips is up to you!

Attract Some Attention: Signal Interest and Availability

Signal your interest and availability, as research shows they can trump attractiveness in getting dates.  (This t-shirt was actually a reward for donating blood to the Red Cross.)

Signal your interest and availability, as research shows they can trump attractiveness in getting dates. (This t-shirt was actually a reward for donating blood to the Red Cross.)

Tip 1: Turn Heads by Wearing Red

Do you tend to wear a lot of red? People who routinely wear the color tend to be more active, outgoing, and impatient than those who avoid it.

Red is traditionally known as a power color, linked with strength, competitive dominance, energy, vitality, and high status.2 It is also associated with passion and romance.

The Red Dress Effect

The "red dress effect" describes a subconscious, cross-cultural perception that red clothing is more sexually appealing. For example, the "lady in a red dress" is a cultural symbol for female sensuality.

Research has found that men perceive women in red be more open to sexual advances.3 (In men's defense, note that a variety of animals unwittingly flush red when they are sexually receptive.)

Similar research found that women dressed in red were considered to be more highly sexually attractive. In on-line dating profiles they received higher rates of responses when wearing red clothing.4

Also, dating websites that are geared more towards "hook-ups" rather than relationships tend to have a higher percentage of registrants who wear red clothing in their profile photos.

Furthermore, men expressed an intent to spend almost twice as much on a female date clad in red (compared with a date dressed in blue).

Dressing in red can be instrumentally beneficial in other contexts, too. Men gave 15-26% higher tips to waitresses who wore red (compared with those dressed in white).5 However, women customers were uninfluenced by what waitresses wore.

The red dress effect seems to have some biological underpinnings, as supported by the finding that the effect disappears once women reach menopausal age. (But ladies, wear what makes you feel good. Confidence counts.)

Reader Opinion Poll

Red: Not Just a Color for the Ladies

When it comes to flattery, did you know that the color red works for both women and men?

According to recent research, guys should wear red if they want to be perceived as more attractive and sexually desirable by the ladies.6

Read More From Pairedlife

The research finding was consistent across cultures and is perhaps explained by a combination of two things:

  1. red is perceived as a high status color and
  2. high status is particularly sought after by women in a potential mate.

So, fellas, go stock up on red polos and ties. Amp up that sexiness, and get your game on.

No Cheese in This Grin

Smiling is associated with perceptions of women's attractiveness and men's dominance.

Smiling is associated with perceptions of women's attractiveness and men's dominance.

Tip 2: Smile Like You Mean It

A genuine smile—the so-called "Duchenne smile"— involves a symmetrical raising of the cheeks and the display of crows feet around the eyes. It can increase a woman's attractiveness and result in increased approachability.7

Note, however, that for men, smiling is associated with dominance. This is likely due to stereotypes. (Sorry, guys, life is not always fair.)

While about 80% of people can fake a "genuine" smile, there are key differences in fake vs. real smiles:

  • different parts of the brain control them
  • real smiles are associated with the emotional experience of enjoyment and
  • real smiles are slower in onset. Smiles are judged as more attractive and trustworthy when you tilt your head in the same direction as your eye orientation or your partner.

How Good Are You at Spotting a Fake Smile?

Do you think you can tell the difference between a real smile and a fake one?

Test your abilities with the Fake Smile Quiz. It has 20 questions involving brief video clips of people smiling. The quiz takes 10 minutes or less to complete.

The Fake Smile Quiz is based on the extensive research of famed psychologist Paul Eckman, the foremost expert on facial expression.

Eckman has written extensively on the subject, and the Fox television network drama Lie to Me was based on his research.

Tip 3: Make Steady Eye Contact

Successful flirting also involves great eye contact. Eye contact is a strong form of nonverbal behavior, accounting for 43.4% of our attention when communicating interpersonally.8

In Western cultures where eye contact between the sexes is permitted, men and women engage in a "copulatory gaze" consisting of an intense stare lasting two to three seconds.9 Their pupils may dilate as they check one another out.

The person who initiated the gaze usually looks down then away. The target then decides to rebuff the attention or engage in a "return gaze."

Steady eye contact is associated with significantly higher feelings of liking and affection, and couples who spend more time gazing at one another report greater levels of passionate love for their partners.10

Creeper Alert: No Staring

Just a few seconds separate a Romeo and a Creeper. Look directly at the target of your flirtation, but please don't make it a staring contest. (Remember: To stare is to scare.) If you're looking at someone longer than 10 seconds straight, you've entered that Awkward Zone.11

Once you're in a conversation with Mr. or Ms. Sexy, briefly break eye contact approximately every five seconds by looking away horizontally.

Eye contact is a powerful connector, stimulating prefrontal areas of the brain and increasing heart rate, perspiration, and breathing. Connect first with the eyes and you just may find that you have a love connection.

As you talk with your flirting partner, try subtly moving closer.  Check your partner's comfort reaction.

As you talk with your flirting partner, try subtly moving closer. Check your partner's comfort reaction.

Tip 4: Use Interpersonal Space To Your Advantage

Personal space refers to the zone of interpersonal distance that consistently separates an individual from others. Think of it as an invisible bubble that each person maintains around his or her body; strangers are generally forbidden from trespassing.

Personal space varies considerably with a person's culture, ethnicity, social standing, geography, life experiences (e.g., psychological trauma), and trait anxiety.12

Intimate distance refers to the zone extending from the body's surface to about 18 inches (46 cm) away. The area is typically reserved for those with whom we share an established emotional bond: lovers, close family members, friends, children, and pets. Personal distance refers to the zone extending roughly 1.5-4 feet (46-122 cm); friends and associates typically occupy this zone.

As you talk with your flirting partner and they become more comfortable, try subtly moving closer. Pay attention to their reaction.

Personal space conveys information about your partner's self-confidence as well as their desire for intimacy. Whether they back away can indicate their level of interest.

Flirty Men: Space Maximizers

Next time you're in a bar or other social setting where there is flirting, do some people watching.

Men who are more successful at flirting tend to use their bodies in "space maximization" movements which subconsciously announce their intentions to potential competitors.

For example, they extend an arm across an adjacent chair, sprawl out so their body takes up more room, extend their arms with stretching movements, and engage in non-reciprocated touching with nearby men (e.g., playful shoving, ribbing).13

Tip 5: Make the Connection Using Touch

Touch can be the difference between that cold, unlit match and the flame that ignites.

Brief touches such as brushes on the arm or a light touch to the shoulder are associated with increases in liking and attraction, so use touch to your advantage. Just make sure your touch is welcome. (Read your partner's cues.)

The use of a light forearm touch has been found to improve compliance with a variety of requests, ranging from providing one's phone number to requests for a slow dance.14 Touching communicates affection, receptiveness, immediacy, and similarity.

Studies show that gentle, informal touching and touching that involves hugging or face-to-face contact is perceived as the most flirtatious and romantic. A face touch, for example, is considered extremely flirtatious.

Furthermore, mutual touch has been found to be associated with significantly elevated heart rates and increased romantic desire, particularly when combined with eye contact.15

Now this is flirting.

Now this is flirting.

Suggestions For Using Social Touch In Flirting

Continue to read your partner's cues to determine that the touching is welcome. Have fun and happy flirting!

Examples of how to successfully use touch when flirting:Examples of how to successfully use touch when flirting:

Offer greeting hugs if appropriate as a possible prelude to further physical contact.

Get their attention when making a comment by patting their hand or forearm, or by touching their shoulder.

Rather than sitting across from your flirting partner, sit side by side, with shoulders and thighs touching.

Employ "accidental" touches such as arm grazes (e.g., when reaching over them).

How To Flirt Better Using Science

Social Signals Give You Away

Body language is often unintentional and subtle. Sometimes we don't even know we're sending certain signals. In the table below are 10 ways you may be communicating disinterest without even knowing it:

This old fella may be looking for love, but he needs to shore up his body language.  The crossed arms signal "no."

This old fella may be looking for love, but he needs to shore up his body language. The crossed arms signal "no."

10 Ways You're Signaling "I'm NOT Interested"

Watch what your body language is saying.

Social SignalSocial Signal

You avert the person's gaze by looking up. This is equivalent to an "eye roll."

You don't nod your head to encourage them as they talk. (Are you actually yawning?)

You cross your arms tightly in front of your chest.

You step back when they try to touch you or when they move closer.

You stay with your friends when the person approaches you. (No one wants an audience when they're trying to make a move.)

You wear a scowl or other unpleasant expression on your face.

When the person asks you questions, you provide the briefest of answers.

You point your arms, knees and feet away from the person. They are visual indicators of the direction of your thoughts.

You don't hold up your end of the conversation by offering anecdotes, providing opinions, or asking them about the other person. Or you just look at your iPhone.

You speak slowly, hesitatingly, and inject a lot of "ahs" and "ums" into your conversation.

This pigeon plays coy.

This pigeon plays coy.


1Rodgers, Joann E. "Flirting Fascination | Psychology Today." Psychology Today: Health, Help, Happiness + Find a Therapist. Last modified February 8, 2012.

2Empowered By Color. "The Color Red." Last modified 2013.

3Strain, Daniel. "Red Dress Effect: Women In Red Deemed Open To Sexual Advances, Study Of Men Shows." The Huffington Post. Last modified February 28, 2012.

4Alter, Adam. "I See Red: The color you need to wear on your dating profile." Slate Magazine. Last modified March 21, 2013. "Waitresses who wear red get 25 per cent more tips." Last modified August 3, 2012.

6American Psychological Association. "Women More Attracted to Men in Red." Last modified August 2, 2010.

7Dean, Jeremy. "A Slow Smile Attracts." PsyBlog. Accessed October 23, 2013.

8Nelson, Audrey. "The Politics of Eye Contact: A Gender Perspective | Psychology Today." Psychology Today. Last modified September 15, 2010.

9Fischer, Helen E. "The Biology of Attraction | Psychology Today." Psychology Today: Health, Help, Happiness + Find a Therapist. Last modified October 31, 2011.

10Barker, Eric. "How To Make A Girl Fall In Love With You." Barking Up The Wrong Tree. Last modified November 11, 11.

11McKay, Brett, and Kate McKay. "How to Use Eye Contact to Improve Your Business and Love Life." The Art of Manliness. Last modified February 12, 2012.

12Main, Douglas. "Get Out of My Face! Anxious People Need More Space | LiveScience." Last modified August 27, 2013.

13Regan, Pamela C. "The Mating Game: A Primer on Love, Sex, and Marriage." Google Books. Accessed October 23, 2013.

14Barker, Eric. "What simple thing can help a guy get a girl's number?" Barking Up The Wrong Tree. Last modified May 24, 2011.

15Nicholson, Jeremy. "How to Flirt and Seduce With Touch: Part 1 | Psychology Today." Psychology Today. Last modified February 2, 2012.

Use eye contact to connect and social touch to express further interest.

Use eye contact to connect and social touch to express further interest.

© 2013 FlourishAnyway


FlourishAnyway (author) from USA on September 01, 2014:

Mindi - I'm sure you mean my "sister," Kate. She is still available. Haha. Thanks for stopping by and have a great Labor Day!

Amanda Littlejohn on September 01, 2014:

Well, I don't feel any need to be flirty these days but I laughed out loud at some of this (only the bits that are *meant* to be funny, of course)

And the photos - well, some of them are plain scary!

But yes, I think eye-contact, smiling, giving attention and listening are all good ways of interacting if you're flirting or not.

Bless. :)

FlourishAnyway (author) from USA on August 16, 2014:

PMARTIN - Thank you for reading and adding your perspective!

PMARTIN on August 15, 2014:

Fun read with good humor mixed in. I know at least the red dress catches my eye and red lipstick (not the glossy stuff--sometimes too much looks like drool). The sitting next to someone and casually legs or thighs barely touching does leave me to think they are comfortable with me. I ll keep my eye open for some of these.

FlourishAnyway (author) from USA on July 21, 2014:

Savvy - Great add. Thanks for reading and commenting. Have a great week ahead!

Yves on July 20, 2014:

This is wonderful advice. I loved the whole thing and I have to say that the pictures of "Kate" were adorable (along with the poem and captions) I would add one piece of advice for a woman or man who's feeling saucy and confident. When you look at your dates eyes, also move your eyes rapidly to his/her mouth, then back to the eyes again. Do this two or three times in rapid succession. It's a flirty way of conveying, "I wouldn't mind kissing you sometime..."

Up, awesome, useful!

FlourishAnyway (author) from USA on January 23, 2014:

Welcome to HubPages, Pochinuk. I appreciate your kind compliments. We have a community of great writers and people who are fun to know. I encourage you to stick with us and read a variety of Hubbers' work. I'm hopping over to your profile now to read what you have.

pochinuk on January 23, 2014:


Wow: Your are a dynamic HUBBER!!!- a visual mentor. Layout, everything as they say and want: "Stellar Hub."

This is my first visit here, and I really believe in this stuff... to a good end

This is so complete and so important for human beings to understand.

If it's okay I copy pasted this comment from someone else on the page:

Where was this information when I needed it desperately? LOL I'm serious; I was clueless about this flirting stuff for decades. Now that I understand it I'm too old to use it. How crappy is that? :)

Encouragment to the commentor: I was clueless once too. Do what she says here and "flourish anyway."

I think no one is in any poor condition to "flick" and "flutter."Even if the results are a Bummer!

I think it is appropriate here: I watched a fabulous documentary on The Mating Dance of A Bird of Paradise. One of the most memorable dances was the earnest of one male bird, how he flitted and fluttered his plumage, and his stunts, and high soaring flights and descents were so grand- at the end of it all she flew away. I dropped my jaw. I felt sorry for both, he was so good, and she fell into poor judgement ( from a human standpoint of course) and lost a beautiful male partner.- after watching this my daughters and I put feathers in our hair and danced!

I am a naturalist, so of course, and the documentary was done professionally to the tee; in a remote area of the earth, spectacular so it really took me in all around...but hey, no matter what the results old or young let's keep true to our nature..

and your hub says it all-- the full instructions are here.

Thanks for making my first visit enjoyable on a healthy subject of human interest, that none of us can get away from, and we shouldn't. We are all beautiful attractive people, and this can be done respectfully all around.


FlourishAnyway (author) from USA on January 04, 2014:

dragonflycolor - That's the best kind of flirting -- useful stuff. After being married for nearly 20 years, I find that when my husband does housework, he becomes even more awesome. Have a great new year!

dragonflycolor on January 03, 2014:

My husband flirts with me by cleaning the kitchen, I flirt back by walking into the room. It's super fun. Love this hub. Voted up, Flourish!

FlourishAnyway (author) from USA on November 15, 2013:

billybuc - I know right? I'm glad to be out of that game, but I still try to flirt every day with my husband. Makes life fun and keeps me young. Thanks for stopping by.

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on November 15, 2013:

Where was this information when I needed it desperately? LOL I'm serious; I was clueless about this flirting stuff for decades. Now that I understand it I'm too old to use it. How crappy is that? :)

FlourishAnyway (author) from USA on November 11, 2013:

JPSO138 - Thanks for reading and commenting. Flirting certainly is an art but also a science. Glad you liked the poem, too.

JPSO138 from Cebu, Philippines, International on November 11, 2013:

Well done and nice choice of pictures. I really enjoyed this. At least now I now some insights if someone is flirting to me... Nice poem!

FlourishAnyway (author) from USA on November 10, 2013:

Carolyn - Thanks for reading and commenting. Hopefully I have given folks a lot to think about and entertained tem too!

carolynkaye from USA on November 09, 2013:

Awesome Hub on flirting! Funny too. Love the great pics LOL.

FlourishAnyway (author) from USA on November 07, 2013:

Jeannie - At least you know what to ask for come Christmastime -- red sweaters, etc. Thanks for reading and commenting.

Jeannie Marie from Baltimore, MD on November 07, 2013:

Well, this is why I am such a bad flirt. I never wear red! At least I would think I have a genuine smile though. Hmmm... guess I need to work on this stuff. ;-)

FlourishAnyway (author) from USA on November 07, 2013:

Suzanne - I liked the fellow in the red cape, too. I bet he doesn't know he's on the internet in that red cape, but he's totally owning it.

Suzanne Day from Melbourne, Victoria, Australia on November 07, 2013:

What a fabulous hub, I enjoyed reading it very much! Particularly liked the poll which was interesting to answer. And the funny fellow in the red cape. It goes to show that we are all animals at heart. Voted up, interesting etc.

FlourishAnyway (author) from USA on November 06, 2013:

Jo - I love your humor. Postmenopausal and looking great in red, I'm sure! Thanks for reading and commenting.

Jo Alexis-Hagues from Lincolnshire, U.K on November 06, 2013:

This is fun and very interesting. Guess what? I'm wearing red right now and recently decorated my bedroom in the colours red and white, the bad news, I'm also post menopausal. As far as I can remember from my flirting days, this hub is right on the money.

Nice job!! :)

FlourishAnyway (author) from USA on November 03, 2013:

rohanfelix - Thanks for reading and commenting. It's definitely best not to overdo it, else flirting may be offputting.

Rohan Rinaldo Felix from Chennai, India on November 03, 2013:

A very meaningful hub there. You are clear on how, and how not, to do things. Kudos! My takeaway is never to overdo things!

FlourishAnyway (author) from USA on October 31, 2013:

fittersingles - Thanks for stopping by and for sharing. Flirting is definitely an art but is also backed up by science.

Peter Coles from Manhattan, New York on October 30, 2013:

Very interesting to read. I would be happy to share this as well to my college. Keep it up :)

FlourishAnyway (author) from USA on October 30, 2013:

Jackie - If you can't flirt with the hips, try the eyes! I do hear you about things not being as easy as they used to be. Thanks for reading and commenting.

Jackie Lynnley from the beautiful south on October 30, 2013:

Flirting is fun but gets a little harder to do when the hips don't move back in place so smoothly, lol. Great fun hub! ^

FlourishAnyway (author) from USA on October 30, 2013:

Writer Fox - There's a lot of fun flirting and interpersonal attraction research out there. Although I would say that it makes you wonder about the types of folks who study this sort of thing, I actually used to know psychologists who studied interpersonal attraction. Glad you found this fun and informative.

FlourishAnyway (author) from USA on October 30, 2013:

Frank - Glad you like this. It was a really fun one to write! Thanks for reading and commenting.

Writer Fox from the wadi near the little river on October 29, 2013:

WOW! There's a lot of information in this article. I never knew anyone actually produced research on flirting. Very interest and voted up!

Frank Atanacio from Shelton on October 29, 2013:

Flourish what an amazing hub..dare I say Educational? LOL thanks for the share

FlourishAnyway (author) from USA on October 26, 2013:

Eddy - Thanks for reading and commenting! Flirting is something we should never tire of.

FlourishAnyway (author) from USA on October 26, 2013:

Vinaya - If only every person had James Bond's social awareness! Thanks for reading and commenting.

Eiddwen from Wales on October 26, 2013:

A wonderful hub and voted up for sure. Here's to wishing you a wonderful weekend.


Vinaya Ghimire from Nepal on October 26, 2013:

No one does it better than James Bond because 007 accepts the rule: approach a woman only as she wishes to be approached; never over step the boundaries she sets.

FlourishAnyway (author) from USA on October 26, 2013:

Nell - Glad you enjoyed this so much. I'll be sure to tell my "sister." The personal space issue is definitely a cultural issue and one of personal taste as well. Those close talkers are something else! Thanks for reading and commenting.

Nell Rose from England on October 25, 2013:

LOL! loved this! those photos....! great advice, and yes the personal space is the important bit as well as the not too long staring otherwise you will creep them out! oh I remember it well! still! lol!

FlourishAnyway (author) from USA on October 25, 2013:

Crafty - Red is certainly a confidence color and it does send certain messages. Thanks for the compliments on my cats. These two particularly are fond of one another. Thanks for reading and commenting.

CraftytotheCore on October 24, 2013:

Oh how funny and true! When I worked in a professional office, I used to wear a red suit on days I felt extra confident that one of our cases would have a successful outcome. Your cats are so cute!

FlourishAnyway (author) from USA on October 24, 2013:

bravewarrior - Glad you liked this. I got 19 of 20, but I was trained to read faces so it's not quite a fair comparison! Paul Eckman is the granddaddy of facial expression science, and it's neat that he's come into popular fame with that Fox television show.

FlourishAnyway (author) from USA on October 24, 2013:

kidscrafts - Thanks for reading and commenting. I'd keep the red in my wardrobe but cast a wayward eye if anyone was checking you out too much. At least we know! Can you imagine Christmastime?

Shauna L Bowling from Central Florida on October 24, 2013:

This was interesting and fun, Flourish. I scored 13 out of 20 on the smile test. How did you do?

kidscrafts from Ottawa, Canada on October 24, 2013:

Great funny hub, Flourish :-)

Hummm, I have a few red sweater and a red dress ... what should I do ;-)

I have heard before that red is also a powerful colour to wear for interviews, because as you wrote it's a "power color, linked with strength, competitive dominance, energy, vitality, and high status".

I love your choice of pictures to illustrate your different tips and my favorite ones are your adorable cats and also your father with the wig! You must have laughed a good time when that happen and those snapshots will always bring a smile in your family :-) Good for you!

Great poem at the end of your hub!

Thank you for sharing!

Voted up, funny and interesting :-)

FlourishAnyway (author) from USA on October 24, 2013:

DDE - Red certainly sends a certain set of signals, especially for us ladies. Now we at least know what kinds of messages men are formulating in their minds (whether they know why or not). Glad you enjoyed this.

FlourishAnyway (author) from USA on October 24, 2013:

Faith - All of that about the red dress effect really makes you think, doesn't it? Aww, don't change your profile picture. I'm glad you enjoyed the poem, too. I wrote it especially for those "Ugly Sister" photos. One Halloween my dad tried on my daughter's costume wig and we snapped a few photos and had some laughs.

Devika Primić from Dubrovnik, Croatia on October 24, 2013:

5 Tips For How To Get Noticed: The Science of Flirting, brilliantly approached hub and I like the color red. The five simple tips to get noticed, is helpful, to all readers thanks for producing such thoughtful hub

Faith Reaper from southern USA on October 24, 2013:

LOL, Flourish ... that last poem is a killer! hehehe Oh, my goodness, this is an enjoyable read, and I must change my profile pic!!! LOL I had no clue. However, I have been married for 35 years and that photo was taken during the Christmas season. LOL

But now I know ... just in case I need to know! : )

Up and more and sharing

Hugs and have a beautiful day,

Faith Reaper

FlourishAnyway (author) from USA on October 24, 2013:

LKMore01 - Glad you like this. Have a great day!

LKMore01 on October 24, 2013:

Love this HUB, Flourish. Flirting is an art and you have certainly shown us all of the most important aspects of subtle seduction.

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