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Image / Editorial

The Truth About Flirting

02nd Feb 2015

Do you need to have high self-esteem in order to flirt?

An exciting new study has sought to understand our flirting habits in relation to our varying levels of self-esteem. How does high or low self-esteem affect the way in which we interact with potential objects of our affection? Are people with great self-confidence less inclined to worry about rejection and therefore more willing to flirt and even ask somebody out on a date? Are shy, less confident folk too concerned about the risk involved with putting themselves out there to even try? In order to fulfill these hypotheses, researchers undertook two distinct experiments.

Focusing on heterosexual men and women, a large group of people were individually evaluated in terms of their self-esteem and given a corresponding score, as per Rosenberg’s Self-Esteem Inventory. As part of the first experiment, they were asked to record a time they had asked somebody out and endured rejection, detailing whether their flirtatious behaviour was direct or indirect as well as how risky they thought that behaviour was at the time. For example, you might record that demonstrating your interest by going in for a kiss without the other person’s consent is pretty risky business.

Secondly, and this one’s particularly interesting, participants who were single were filmed answering questions about themselves and told that someone of the opposite sex (i.e. a potential love interest) would be watching. Those interviewed were either told that they could meet the person watching, if they wanted to, or that there was no chance of coming face to face with them. The researchers watched the videos, noting direct and indirect behaviours associated with high (meeting the person) and low (not meeting them) risk scenarios.
The results were predictable in parts. The men with high self-esteem were far more prepared to flirt openly than the men with low self-esteem. What surprised the researchers, however, was to learn that men with low self-esteem were way more direct (even more so than the men with high self-esteem) when the risk was low.

As for the ladies? Their levels of self-esteem didn’t matter so much; they would flirt more directly where there was less risk, regardless of how confident they were to begin with.

So there you have it, whether you’re a shrinking violet or a casanova, you’re more than capable of flirting given the right set of circumstances.

From the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology