Flirting is essential for attracting a sexual partner, but many people find it difficult to do so. Psychologists from the University of Nicosia in Cyprus decided to find out what exactly repels people in potential partners when dating. The scientists reported their results in a journal article. Personality and Individual Differences.
“Research shows that many people (perhaps one in two) have trouble dating,” said Professor Menelaos Apostolou, lead author of the study. “Understanding what exactly caused the failure will allow people to hone their skills in this area.”
The participants of the first part of the study were 212 men and women with a mean age of 32-35 years. Just over a third were single, the same number were in a relationship, and about a quarter were married. Participants had to consider the following scenario: They are alone and someone comes up to them and starts flirting. They needed to name the traits of a flirt that could repel them.
The main such characteristics were a rude and vulgar style of communication, external attractiveness, attempts to get too close, stupidity, narcissism, lack of a sense of humor, stinginess, poor hygiene, greasy compliments. In total, the researchers identified 69 traits and variants that could spoil the first impression.
In the second part of the study, 734 volunteers with a mean age of 28-32 years, 42% single, 40% in a relationship and 12% married. They had to imagine the same situation as the participants in the first study, but this time they chose the driving traits from a list compiled from the results.
Here, the anti-degree of flirting manifestations was dominated by obscenity, lack of hygiene and expressed lack of interest – for example, when a potential partner in the communication process looks around in search of other acquaintances. Differences of opinion, vulgar vocabulary and stupidity were also important. The greed, the ugly and messy appearance, the violation of physical boundaries were a little less disturbing, but still quite significant.
The role is played not by the features themselves, but by what they can show, the study’s authors explain.
“Rain is associated with negative personality traits such as vulgar language, narcissism, border transgression, lack of sense of humor, lack of empathy, aggression and maliciousness, low self-esteem,” they write. – Poor hygiene can indicate negative personality traits as well as latent psychopathology. Also, people value intelligence in a partner, which leads to the item “Lack of intelligence”. Since humor is also associated with intelligence, this may partly explain the appearance of the item “Lack of humor”.
Also, people want a potential partner to be only interested in them, be like them, look good, and be ready to share resources.
The researchers hypothesized that some traits would be more important to women and others to men. However, women were more demanding in almost every respect.
“One reason is that women undertake most of the mandatory parental investment involved in raising children, so they are at greater risk than men if they make the wrong mate choice,” write the study’s authors. “Accordingly, over the course of evolution, women have become more selective and less risk-prone than men.”
It turns out that men’s requirements are higher than women’s in terms of appearance alone.
Older people also had higher demands. Probably the truth is that while young people focus more on gaining experience in relationships with different partners, over the years people are more attuned to a serious relationship and better understand what they want.
“People can flirt more effectively if they work on their approach, for example, avoiding bad and sexist comments, inappropriate touching, and not flirting with more than one person at a time,” the researchers say. “The results also suggest that paying attention to personal hygiene and expanding vocabulary are other ways to improve dating skills.”
The authors of the study say that the data was collected on the basis of self-reports, so they may slightly distort the real picture. Therefore, participants with no relationship experience may not be entirely accurate in assessing what factors might be unpleasant for them. Also, the respondents were exclusively Greek, and attitudes towards certain manifestations of flirting can vary depending on the culture. For example, touching and other physical contact may be perceived as more extreme in some places and less ugly in others. According to the scientists, the study should be repeated with residents of other countries to understand how cultural aspects can affect dating success.