We all know that humor is the best medicine. Turns out, its pretty good at picking up a date too.
According to a new study published in the journal Evolutionary Psychology between the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU), Bucknell University, and the State University of New York at Oswego, humor is the strongest weapon in the flirting arsenal. While there are several different types of ways to flirt, a sense of humor generally has the most success on average.
“People think that humor, or being able to make another person laugh, is most effective for men who are looking for a long-term relationship,” said Leif Edward Ottesen Kennair, a professor at NTNU. “(L)aughing or giggling at the other person’s jokes is an effective flirtation tactic for both sexes.”
The researchers applied sexual strategies theory as a framework to their research, which focused on 1,000 heterosexual college students in the United States and Norway. Variants of this theory — which posits that humans have evolved a complex menu of mating strategies, some very different between teh sexes — have also been used in other contexts that deal with how men and women proceed to find partners. This is the first time the theory is being used to examine flirting effectiveness.
Participants rated how successful 40 different types of flirting techniques were for a long-term or a short-term relationship, and if the flirter was male or female. The researcher team also took into account the participants’ extroversion, age, religiosity, how willing the person was to have a relationship and their attractiveness on the dating market.
But what is flirting exactly?
Like animals doing their dances in the wild, humans use flirting as a way of attracting a potential partner. Flirting involves different signals that two people send to each other. Both men and women flirt to get the attention of a desired partner.
Flirting differs based on the hoped desired outcomes. Those with ambitions of a one-night fling have different signals than those looking for something more long term, such as rubbing against potential partners, moving closer and making body contact. The study shows that signs of generosity and a willingness to commit works best for men who are looking for something a little more steady.
“The tactics that were judged most effective for women for a one-night stand were exclusively sexual or physical,” said the researchers in the study. “In contrast, men were judged more effective if they, in addition to physical and sexual tactics, also smiled, showed interest in conversations, gave compliments and made her laugh.”
Mostly these are the same flirting techniques that people believe are successful in both Norway and the United States, the two countries which the study focused on. Flirting is only culturally dependent to a smaller degree, such as in one’s body language, the initial contact and in the level of generosity. This suggests that successful flirting is largely universal which is not startling since the reasons for finding a mate are partly biological.
However, this also shows that people fine tune their flirting techniques depending on what is underscored in their culture, which is a smart, flexible strategy.
“The findings fit perfectly with what we know from the literature on self-promotion,” said Kennair. “It also seems that flirting is largely the same in the U.S. and Norway.”
Since humor might not come naturally to many, Kennair said it might be important to start from the beginning.
“Smiling and eye contact are important. Then you can build your flirting skills from that base.”