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Posted June 30, Reviewed by Matt Huston. Yet I still get s from women asking how to let a guy know they are interested — and get him to approach them.

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Try out PMC Labs and tell us what you think. Learn More. Much research in flirtation has been approached from a socio-cognitive perspective and has overemphasized subjective self-reports rather than overt behavior. Existing work pertinent to flirtation is reviewed here in addition to proposing a behavior-analytic perspective on the topic with a conception that includes both rule-governed and contingency-shaped behavior.

Applications of a behavior analytic conception of flirtation and future directions relevant to research on interpersonal relationships are discussed. Behavior analysis as an approach for the study of flirtation is distinctive because of its emphasis upon the function rather than the form of social interactions.

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It emphasizes observed consequences as opposed to a priori or inferred intentions. It is useful both for identifying an exchange as flirtatious as well as for interpreting it.

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In addition, how something is said as opposed to simply what is said is integral to the effectiveness of a flirtatious act. This is the domain of autoclitics. A discussion of flirtation as both rule-governed and contingency-shaped behavior will be presented below. First, it is important to review existing conceptions of flirtation.

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However, this characterization is ambiguous as to what is qualitatively different about flirtatious conversation, body language, and physical contact in comparison to topographically similar behaviors that would not be labeled flirtatious. Also, definitions or discussions of flirtation often fail to acknowledge the function s of that behavior. Conceptually, an obviously relevant function is that of mate selection. In that context, flirtatious acts have received relatively little attention in the social sciences, which have instead emphasized personality traits or other characteristics.

As a practical matter, identification of the characteristics of successful flirtation may be key to improving the quality and duration of an interpersonal relationship between two individuals. In the psychological literature, Sabini and Silver characterize flirtation as an ambiguous phenomenon. They elaborate upon myriad kinds of cases, whether easily recognizable or unrecognizable, as fitting this category.

They argue that successful flirtation is similar to a game of chess. Like chess, flirtation is framed by a of rules. However, these rules are dynamic as well as implicit instead of explicit. It is difficult to Philadelphia Pa body language flirting every possible move although individual moves can be assessed within context. Regardless, a general overview of potential functions served by flirtatious acts is helpful. Researchers have historically sought to understand flirtation through self-report and behavioral coding systems.

For example, some researchers have used scripted interactions and then asked individuals to rate the flirtatiousness of the episode Koeppel et al. These studies utilize coding systems that include smiling, touch and physical contact, distance between members of the dyad, eye contact, laughter, fluency, and vocal tone.

(i think) you are pretty: a behavior analytic conceptualization of flirtation

Thus, researchers have collected self-report data on whether the function of flirtation is primarily sex-oriented, for fun, or as invitation Koeppel et al. Additionally, Abrahams found that the initiator or initial writer of the flirtatious episode rates the flirtatious act differently from the perceiver or outside recipient of the flirtatious act.

For example, using a factor analysis of participant ratings of flirtation exemplars, Egland et al. Low say-do correspondence has been supported by multiple empirical studies both within and outside of behavior analysis, meaning that what people say is not highly correlated with what they do.

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Skinner defined verbal behavior as behavior maintained by a verbal community in which the interaction of speakers and listeners established the practices of the verbal community itself. In acknowledging the importance of the audience, Skinner suggests that different audiences or listeners occasion different responses from the speaker.

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For example, the presence of a pretty woman will occasion a different response from a male speaker than the presence of his mother. The autoclitic is defined as verbal behavior that modifies other verbal behavior or the reaction of the listener. This unit can for the numerous nuances in verbal behavior and the relationship between speaker and listener.

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The reciprocal and dynamic nature of flirtation makes it appropriate for analysis using verbal operants, mainly the autoclitic. Wade conducted an online dating experiment during which the researcher systematically varied pronouns pertaining to self and other and examining autoclitic function of such variations. RFT is additionally useful in ing for flirtation from a behavior analytic perspective. Lastly, functional analytic psychotherapy FAP emphasizes core behavior analytic principles such as reinforcement of speaker and listener responses.

As a clinical approach, FAP emphasizes reciprocal interactions of the speaker-listener dyad in determining adaptive behavior of both members of the dyad. The current paper will return to these concepts when discussing behavior analytic conceptualizations of flirtation. Some of these studies Philadelphia Pa body language flirting emphasized as many as 83 courtship behaviors coded from videotaped male-female dyadic pair strangers interacting in a laboratory waiting room Grammar, et al.

Thus, Grammar et al. These behaviors tended to continue for more than the first few minutes when females were interested. For males, high production of speech was correlated with interest. However, researchers note the ambiguity and difficulty in assessing flirtation or interest in a mate. This is especially the case concerning female interest in males.

Similarly, a flirtatious act should appropriately consider a dyad as the most basic unit of analysis, studying both the initiator and the recipient of the flirtatious act these roles may be dynamic and held by both individuals at different points in time. A of features of the FAPRS Coding System are especially relevant in attempting to identify flirtation or construct a checklist for future research.

Navigating the waters: an introduction to the study of flirtation

For example, every turn in a conversation is coded. This is particularly relevant in flirtation where what may seem important is in fact negligible and vice versa. More recently, a of researchers have used speed-dating as a naturalistic paradigm for asking questions pertinent to romantic behavior and mate selection, which of course involves flirtation. These studies can be categorized as focused upon selectivity hypotheses, upon matching theories stressing the selection of persons with characteristics similar to oneself, or upon physical attraction.

Kurzban and Weeden provide an overview of speed-dating and discuss how self-report from speed-dating participants can inform the body of research on mate selectivity. Additionally, Finkel and Eastwick provide a quick survey of the advantages of using speed-dating to study romantic relationships.

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Other researchers have proposed the use of the dyad as the most basic unit of analysis. Participants have also watched and rated videotaped interactions from naturalistic events in laboratory settings. Consistent with the thin slices literature, longer clips did not improve the accuracy of judgments. However, judgments of clips from the middle or end of the speed-dating interaction proved to be much more predictive of actual speed-dater interest Place et al.

The body language women use when they want a man to approach.

The reconceptualization of flirtation as both verbal and non-verbal behavior is proposed here, defining such behavior through the lens of behavior analysis. Existing research has differentiated between verbal and nonverbal behavior when studying romantic relationships and flirtation. Although verbal behavior and nonverbal behavior are terms utilized within behavior analysis, the terms have quite different meanings in the world at large. Behavior-analytically, then, verbal behavior is reserved for socially mediated behavior between speakers and listeners established by verbal communities whereby the behavior of the listener reinforces the behavior of the speaker Skinner, Nonverbal behavior is operant or respondent behavior that is not dependent upon the behavior of others.

In order to resolve the ambiguity in meaning between verbal and nonverbal when comparing research and conceptual arguments pertaining to flirtation from behavior analytic and outside perspectives, it is suggested here that a clear differentiation between rule-governed behavior and contingency-shaped behavior is a better dichotomy.

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Although this dichotomy is useful, both rule-governed and contingency-shaped behavior can simultaneously be operative in verbal behavior as defined by behavior analysts and flirtatious acts. Verbal behavior is often vocal; however, gestural termed nonverbal in other disciplines or textual modes of verbal behavior are relevant as well. In online dating or flirtation, the textual mode is utilized.

Although Skinner asserts that based upon topography alone, the mode of verbal behavior is of little relevance relative to its function, the mode may influence which flirtation strategies are likely to be successful. In contrast, the absence of visual observation of the person, as during conventional online chats, is likely to make other devices such as emoticons, all capital letters, or font type, serve an autoclitic function that modifies the written units themselves.

Two separate types of behavior-analytic dyadic models are suggested here for studying flirtation; the use of both models together allows multiple scales of analysis at both molar and molecular levels. The first emphasizes overarching contingencies of reinforcement, with each member of a dyad supplying consequences for the other member. This model does not negate nor necessitate the role of verbal behavior. The second dyadic model will emphasize the role of speakers and listeners, thus emphasizing the role of verbal behavior and, in particular, the use of autoclitics in flirtation.

It is important to acknowledge that flirtation may be verbal, contingency-shaped, or a combination of the two since they are not mutually exclusive.

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Gestures that accompany other verbal behavior will be considered verbal, potentially serving an autoclitic function. Behaviors such as making eye contact, leaning toward an individual, and touching an individual tend to be considered flirtatious under the correct circumstances.

Wade found this to be the case when studying participants partaking in both traditional and online speed-dating. Motivating operations MOs and discriminative stimuli aid in identifying what circumstances may be deemed as optimal in terms of evoking or occasioning behavior labeled as successful flirtation for both speakers and listeners. For example, having a lack of recent opportunities to engage in sexual behavior or labeling oneself as single may serve as MOs for initiators of potential flirtatious acts; behaviors such as making eye contact with a recipient, leaning toward another individual, or physical contact are more potent reinforcers under these MOs than for individuals where these MOs are not operative e.

On the other hand, members of the opposite sex at funerals or family reunions at least we hope are unlikely to serve as discriminative stimuli occasioning behavior that would be labeled flirtatious. In fact, identical behavior may be labeled flirtatious or not flirtatious, depending completely upon the context and stimulus class of individuals present clearly single vs. For many individuals who are already in a romantic relationship, the lack of opportunity to discuss starting a family with new candidates, or many opportunities to already engage in sexual behavior make flirtation both a less frequent behavior and a less potent reinforcer.

Reading the nonverbal cues of seduction.

However, the possibility of frequent flirtation for some individuals already invested in a long-term relationship cannot necessarily be ruled out, thus the importance of function over a priori traditionally defined intention. The examples highlight the utility of delineating likely functions of flirtation.

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Although flirtation is not necessarily always romantic, it will be considered here as concerning heterosexual romantic relationships as a frequent scenario during which flirtation is likely to yield reinforcing consequences. Thus, rather than defining flirtation based upon a priori intentions or goals of the participants in a flirtatious act, the function of the behavior can be established by the consequences of partaking in the behavior itself.

Additionally, it is important to consider the role of flirtation in both short-term and long-term romantic interactions. While flirtation is proposed to necessitate at least two individuals in order to assess its function or success, the consequences for both members of the dyad may not be equivalent even when we identify it as successful, especially in the case of short-term romantic relationships.

Each member of the dyad is supplying consequences for the other member of the dyad; simultaneously, other aspects of the environment are both operating on the dyad and each individual separately while the dyad and each individual is operating Philadelphia Pa body language flirting the environment. This is consistent with closed loop relations as suggested by Hineline where an organism acts on the environment and the environment acts on the organism.

Additionally, a similar reciprocal closed loop relation is characteristic of the dyad itself in that both members of the dyad act upon one another so long as both members of the dyad continue to participate; continuation of this interaction may be a single episode, many isolated episodes over time, or a long continuation of relatively uninterrupted episodes. Although few studies have considered the relevance of reciprocal reinforcement contingencies where both members of a dyad supply consequences for one another, reciprocal reinforcement contingencies offer various potential theoretical and empirical applications in the domain of flirtation.

However, outright reciprocal reinforcement contingencies where consequences are well-defined are not bountiful in the experimental literature. The supplying of the reciprocal reinforcement contingency by the other member of the dyad can be used as a measure of whether function of a flirtatious act is functionally equivalent or roughly functionally equivalent.

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Autoclitics have been categorized as secondary verbal operants Michael,as distinguished from mands and tacts as the primary verbal operants Skinner; Michael. Tacts can be defined as verbal units occasioned by the presence of a specific discriminative stimulus and are responses described as labeling in everyday language are often instances of tacting. Tacts tend to be maintained by general reinforcers such as acknowledgement. Mands are verbal units that occasion a response from a listener and are usually maintained by very specific reinforcers.