How to Tell If Someone Is Flirting With You, According to Science

How to Tell If Someone Is Flirting With You, According to Science
Renell Medrano / Refinery29 for Getty Images

Let’s be honest, here. In the world of dating, it can be hard to tell if someone is being friendly, wants something from you, or is actually flirting.

If you’re someone who likes to rely on data to navigate your personal relationships, then you may be interested in the findings of a recent study that pinpointed three facial expressions most commonly used when flirting.

In saying that, let’s be sure we understand that the presence of any of these facial expressions – or even obvious flirting – does not mean you have the go-ahead to make a move on someone.

All it means is, plainly, they may be flirting with you. Beyond that, we all need to be using enthusiastic consent and clear communication to understand what someone is comfortable with before crossing any lines, okay?

Great.

The faces of flirting

The study, published in the Journal of Sex Research, involved coding then analysing a variety of facial expressions to determine which were most commonly perceived as flirting.

Though the researchers’ focus was on how men pick up on flirting from women, the findings could make sense in other contexts as well.

“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 Gillath, PhD, professor of psychology at KU, who co-wrote the paper alongside Cornell University lecturer Parnia Haj-Mohamadi, PhD, and Erika Rosenberg, PhD, of the University of California-Davis, told Cosmopolitan.

So without further ado, these facial expressions are:

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

“Across our six studies, we found most men were able to recognise a certain female facial expression as representing flirting,” Gillath explained.

“It 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 expressions.”

Once you’ve got the whole flirting face-to-face thing down pat, we’d suggest moving on to texting like a romantic pro. Here’s our guide to texting someone you’re into. Best of luck, love birds.

This article has been updated since its original publish date. 

Log in to comment on this story!