Flirting is the art of seducing a potential romantic or sexual partner through playful verbal and nonverbal exchanges. A variety of factors, such as the gender of a person, his or her attractiveness, personality traits, and situational context, contribute to the success of flirting. Flirtation techniques can be nonverbal, such as using smiles, posture, and eye contact to express interest. Verbal flirtation techniques are the art of saying a compliment to a person of interest. All these ways of interpersonal communication are often involved in the initiation stage of romantic or sexual relationships. Some men and women enjoy these flirtation tactics all the time. This can be called a “playful style of love.” (Karandashev, 2022).

The New Cross-Cultural Study of Flirtation

The question remains: what flirtation tactics are more effective than others? Let us look at some new research evidence recently published in the journal of Evolutionary Psychology. According to the study, laughing at other people’s jokes is an effective technique for both men and women. However, in other regards, these flirtation tactics can be different for men and women.

The purpose of this study was to evaluate the effectiveness of flirting in love relationships. The research question is whether these flirtation tactics are different for men and women.

The study was also interesting in terms of the effect of cultural contexts. The study was cross-cultural and compared perceptions of flirting among people living in Norway, a very gender egalitarian society, and people living in the United States of America, a more religious country. Researchers created four versions of the questionnaire:

  • a woman flirting with a man for short-term sex,
  • a woman flirting with a man for a long-term relationship,
  • a man flirting with a woman for short-term sex, and
  • a man flirting with a woman for a long-term relationship.

Participants filled out the questionnaires about their flirtation strategies, sociosexuality, extraversion, mate value, and religiosity.

The authors from Norwegian and American universities (Kennair et al., 2022) conducted the study among students in these two relatively different cultures. Two samples were used: one from Norway and one from the United States. Students at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology made up their sample group in Norway. The US sample was made up of college students in the Northeast who were in their first to fourth years.

This study advanced our understanding of gender differences in flirting strategies in two countries. Here is a summary of some key findings.

Gender Similarities in Flirting Tactics

In the context of long-term relationships, men and women employ largely similar flirting strategies. For instance, the study supported the role of humor in interpersonal attraction and perception of mate value. Both men and women can effectively flirt by laughing at each other’s jokes. Such responses to humor through laughing or giggling are equally effective flirtation tactics in both men’s and women’s behavior during conversation.

Gender Differences in Flirting Tactics

The findings of the study revealed gender differences in flirting tactics. Men and women differ in the flirtation tactics they use and perceive as effective.

On the one hand, when women dressed sexy, showed off their bodies, or used sexualized physical contact, men liked these flirting tactics in the context of short-term mating relationships.

On the other hand, when men appear generous, committed, and able to maintain intimate conversations and spend time together, women perceive these flirting tactics as effective in the context of long-term mating relationships. Both findings are in accord with the traditional evolutionary interpretation of the different mating preferences of men and women (see for review Karandashev, 2022).

Cultural Differences in Flirting Between Norwegians and Americans

The United States sample was more religious than the Norwegian sample. That reflected on their use of flirting tactics. Participants in the Norwegian sample were more open in their sociosexual orientation, showing a willingness to engage in casual and uncommitted sexual relationships.

Americans are better at flirting by being generous and looking for attention than Norwegians are. 

Victor Karandashev

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