Here’s The Most Effective Flirting Expression According To Science, Study Finds


  • Researchers outline three elements of most effective flirtatious look
  • Study concludes that flirting has the same weight as other widely-studied emotions
  • Result of the study could contribute to today’s debate on consent

By using the Facial Action Coding System (FACS), a team of researchers from the University of Kansas (KU) was able to identify the specific flirtatious look from women that proved to be the most effective cues for men. 

In the study published in the Journal of Sex Research, the team determined three elements that made the most obvious flirting cues for men to tell that the females are interested in them. These three elements are —

  • Head turned to one side and tilted down slightly
  • A slight smile
  • Eyes turned forward toward the implied target

To conduct the study, the researchers asked women volunteers to show them their most flirtatious look when conveying their romantic or sexual interest in their opposite sex. The women volunteers included professional actresses.

In one scenario, the female volunteers were asked to show how they send out signals to someone who they found attractive while hanging out at a bar. The result showed that there are women who can convey their interest more skillfully. At the same time, there are men who can immediately recognize the signals that these women are sending. 

“Our findings support the role of flirtatious expression in communication and mating initiation. For the first time, not only were we able to isolate and identify the expressions that represent flirting, but we were also able to reveal their function — to activate associations related with relationships and sex,” Omri Gillat, professor of psychology at KU, said in the university’s news release. 

“(Flirting) has a unique morphology, and it’s different from expressions that have similar features — for example, smiling — but aren’t identified by men as flirting expression[s],” Gillat added.

With that, the researchers concluded that flirting should be in the same category as other more well-known emotions. They asserted that flirting also warrants the level of scientific works given to other more recognized emotions such as love and depression. 

Interestingly, however, the study also showed that there are few other facial cues that men interpreted as flirting. In this regard, the study became significant to today’s debate on consent. The research could shed light on situations where misunderstandings between males and females could result in sexual harassment accusations.  

Flirty Dancing TV show “Flirty Dancing” makes couples do a choreographed dance on their first blind date. Photo: Greg Gayne/Fox

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