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Individual Differences in the Communication of Romantic Interest: Development of the Flirting Styles Inventory

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Relationship initiation research supports the existence of 5 styles of communicating romantic interest in others: traditional, physical, sincere, playful, and polite. Exploratory and confirmatory factor analyses on a large adult sample (N = 5,020) supported the existence of the styles. Styles predictably corresponded with self-monitoring and a 5-factor personality model. Women scored higher on all styles, except the playful style. Predictive validity was demonstrated by correlating styles to courtship initiation behaviors and past relationship experiences. The physical, sincere, and playful styles correlated with more dating success. The physical and sincere styles correlated with rapid relational escalation of important relationships with more emotional connection and greater physical chemistry.
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Individual Differences in the
Communication of Romantic Interest:
Development of the Flirting
Styles Inventory
Jeffrey A. Hall, Steve Carter, Michael J. Cody, &
Julie M. Albright
Relationship initiation research supports the existence of 5 styles of communicating
romantic interest in others: traditional, physical, sincere, playful, and polite. Exploratory
and confirmatory factor analyses on a large adult sample (N ¼ 5,020) supported
the existence of the styles. Styles predictably corresponded with self-monitoring and a
5-factor personality model. Women scored higher on all styles, except the playful style.
Predictive validity was demonstrated by correlating styles to courtship initiation beha-
viors and past relationship experiences. The physical, sincere, and playful styles correlated
with more dating success. The physical and sincere styles correlated with rapid relational
escalation of important relationships with more emotional connection and greater
physical chemistry.
Keywords: Communicator Style; Courtship; Date Initiation; Flirting; Relationship
Initiation; Self-Monitoring
Jeffrey A. Hall (Ph.D., University of Southern California, 2007) is an assistant professor in the Department of
Communication Studies at the University of Kansas. Steve Carter (Ph.D., University of Southern California,
2003) is a senior director for research and product development at eHarmony.com. Michael J. Cody (Ph.D.,
Michigan State University, 1977) is a professor at the Annenberg School of Communication & Journalism at
the University of Southern California. Julie M. Albright (Ph.D., University of Southern California, 2001) is a
research assistant professor in the Department of Sociology at the University of Southern California. A previous
version of this manuscript was presented at the 2008 International Communication Association conference in
Montreal, Canada. Correspondence: Jeffrey A. Hall, Department of Communication Studies, University of
Kansas, 1440 Jayhawk Blvd., Rm 102, Lawrence, KS 66045-7574; E-mail: hallj@ku.edu.
Communication Quarterly
Vol. 58, No. 4, October–December 2010, pp. 365–393
ISSN 0146-3373 print/1746-4102 online # 2010 Eastern Communication Association
DOI: 10.1080/01463373.2010.524874
Downloaded By: [Hall, Jeffrey A.] At: 23:34 29 November 2010
During courtship, behavior is influenced by biological sex (Buss & Schmitt, 1993),
physical attractiveness (Langlois et al., 2000), and environmental factors, such as
sex ratios (Schmitt, 2005). Courtship behavior is also influenced by context and by
culture-driven goals and motivations (Henningsen, 2004; Mongeau, Serewicz, &
Therrien, 2004; O’Sullivan, 2008; Sanderson, Keiter, Miles, & Yopyk, 2007). Court-
ship goals and biological factors have been linked to the use of particular communi-
cation strategies and nonverbal behaviors (C. L. Clark, Shaver, & Abrahams, 1999;
Cooper, O’Donnell, Caryl, Morrison, & Bale, 2007; Kunkel, Wilson, Olufowote, &
Robson, 2003; Simpson, Gangestad, & Biek, 1993). This manuscript introduces
another dimension to courtship initiation: flirting style.
The communicator style approach maintains that the way a message is commu-
nicated is central to understanding the meaning of that message (Norton, 1983). In
the case of human courtship, this manuscript demonstrates that five distinct styles
of communicating romantic interest result in different courtship outcomes, corre-
late meaningfully with personality and self-monitoring, and demonstrate predict-
able sex differences. Research exploring biological, motivational, and individual
differences in courtship behavior is reviewed to demonstrate individual differences
in the communication of romantic attraction. The five stylistic dimensions of
courtship initiation that are proposed are traditional, physical, sincere, playful,
and polite.
Communication Strategies and Theories of Mate Selection
Because of the disparate reproductive realities faced by men and women in millen-
nia past, sex differences in mating strategies (Schmitt, 2005) and sexual behaviors
exist (Oliver & Hyde, 1993). Biological sex, physical attractiveness, and environ-
mental constraints play important roles in describing and predicting human mating
strategies (Buss & Schmitt, 1993; Langlois et al., 2000; Li, Bailey, Kenrick, &
Linsenmeier, 2002; Schmitt, 2005). Often, the influence of biology is set in oppo-
sition to the influence of cultural and other individual differences. This dichotomy
obscures the importance of both in the study of romantic communication (Trost &
Alberts, 2006). Although biological impulses toward attractiveness encourage selec-
tion of attractive and healthy mates (Langlois et al., 2000), specific courtship beha-
viors are driven by individual choices and styles of behavior (O’Sullivan, 2008;
Singh, 2004). The contexts where one seeks out a mate, the specific verbal strate-
gies, and the unique interaction patterns between partners are learned behaviors,
informed by culture and context (Sanderson, 2004). Many behaviors that are typi-
cally identified as flirting are not the result of evolutionary forces, but instead are
developed within a certain temporal and cultural milieu (O’Farrell, Rosenthal, &
O’Neal, 2003). In one study of cross-cultural nonverbal behaviors associated with
physical attraction, Grammer, Honda, Juette, and Schmitt (1999) concluded that
cross-cultural variation in nonverbal behaviors is much greater than would be
expected if behaviors associated with romantic interest were a result of solely evol-
utionary processes. Trost and Alberts concluded the following: ‘‘There is no single
366 J. A. Hall et al.
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mating strategy that is used by either sex across all situations; rather, humans adopt
different sexual strategies depending on their level of desired involvement and the
environmental context’’ (p. 324).
The Case for Styles
Norton (1978) argued that to understand interpersonal communication, researchers
must ‘‘deal not only with what is communicated, but with the way it is communi-
cated’’ (p. 99). Norton (1983) defined communicator style as a manner that indivi-
duals verbally and nonverbally interact, which clarifies and highlights how meaning
should be interpreted, filtered, and understood. Communicator style has been related
to a variety of behavioral outcomes, including communicator attractiveness, efficacy,
and image (Brandt, 1979; Martin, Rich, & Gayle, 2004; Norton, 1978, 1983; Norton &
Pettigrew, 1976; Webster, 2005). There are four reasons the communicator style
approach is useful to the study of courtship.
Style is a molar-level abstraction rather than a discrete set of molecular beha-
viors (Spitzberg & Dillard, 2002). In the case of flirting, style is concerned with
the way or manner by which individuals choose to communicate interest, not
the specific verbal and nonverbal behaviors used to do so. Norton (1978, 1983)
demonstrated that distinct communicator styles coalesce into discrete and mean-
ingful behavioral clusters, which clarify and unify disparate or unclear information
into meaningful wholes. Spitzberg and Dillard suggested that it is useful to con-
sider the molar evaluations of behavior rather than molecular actions when
attempting to identify broad communication concepts. We argue that flirting style
is one such concept.
Second, communicator style is critical in conveying a relational message (Norton,
1983). Communicator styles that convey dominance or affiliation are critical in
interpreting what relational meaning should be inferred from a message (Dillard,
Solomon, & Palmer, 1999; Dillard, Solomon, & Samp, 1996). The manner in
which a message is communicated offers particular insight into messages that are
ambiguous, or delivered in contexts where direct communication is unwelcome or
ineffective. Both of these conditionsthe clarification of ambiguity and a social
norm against directnessare relevant to courtship initiation (C. L. Clark et al.,
1999).
Third, the style approach is context dependent. Individual differences in style are
often informed by and restricted to certain contexts. Norton (1978, 1983) and
Brandt (1979) both recognized that the effectiveness and appropriateness of any
individual’s communicator style is dependent on the context, situation, and relation-
ship between communicators.
Finally, the style approach is consistent with contemporary research on intimacy.
Aron (2004) demonstrated that differing styles of sexual intimacy result in differences
in self-disclosure, sexual initiation, and sexual preferences within a relationship.
Rather than applying Norton’s (1983) style dimensions to the context of courtship
initiation, this manuscript utilizes courtship goals, strategies, and motivations to
Communication Quarterly 367
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develop new and unique dimensions of flirting styles. Similar to Norton’s (1983)
approach, this research recognizes that communicator style dimensions are inter-
related. Aspects of a person’s flirting style are expected to overlap but remain concep-
tually distinct. Rather than suggesting that specific molecular strategies or behaviors
can inform overall styles of communicating attraction, this approach considers style
akin to personality (Norton, 1983). In sum, flirting styles can be understood as
molar-level abstractions of ways of communicating interest in the context of a poten-
tially romantic interaction that are context dependent and critical in establishing the
relational meaning of courtship initiation messages.
Courtship Strategies and Goals
Courtship initiation refers to the circumstance wherein one person expresses physi-
cal or relational interest in another person, is the recipient of that expression, or is
engaged with another person in the attempt to learn if interest is mutual or emerg-
ent (Grammer, Kruck, Juette, & Fink, 2000).
1
The discovery and communication of
attraction has been uncovered in research on the motivations for flirting
(Henningsen, 2004), the reasons or rationale given for engaging in different types
of mating (Regan & Dreyer, 1999; Weaver & Herold, 2000), and the goals for first
dates (Mongeau et al., 2004). In fact, the most common goals of flirting are explor-
ing the personality of, establishing a connection with, and gauging the level of
interest conveyed by the other person (C. L. Clark et al., 1999; Henningsen,
2004). Although goals of courtship may be determined, the challenges inherent
to communicating and discovering romantic interest make the achievement of
those goals difficult. Although potential partners may want to convey and discover
romantic interest between one another, there is a great deal of uncertainty inherent
to courtship initiation. Both individuals may be discovering their level of interest in
the interaction itself, and the result of the interaction may influence the goals of
interactants. In addition to self and partner uncertainty, there is considerable
uncertainty in the interpretation of a partner’s flirting behaviors (Kunkel et al.,
2003).
To achieve desired goals, communicators may choose from a variety of different
strategies and tactics (Berger, 1977, 1997; Kellermann, 1992). At the molecular level,
many verbal and nonverbal strategies involved with courtship have been found. Ver-
bal strategies, such as pick-up lines (Bale, Morrison, & Caryl, 2006; Cooper et al.,
2007; Cunningham, 1989; Hall, Cody, Jackson, & Flesh, 2008; Kleinke, Meeker, Sta-
neski, 1986), and nonverbal behaviors have been identified (Abbey, 1982, 1987;
Abbey & Melby, 1986; Grammer et al., 2000; Koeppel, Montagne-Miller, O’Hair, &
Cody, 1993; Moore, 1985, 2002). General self-presentational strategies for communi-
cating attraction (C. L. Clark et al., 1999) and developing closeness (Hess, Fannin, &
Pollom, 2007) have also been evaluated. Whether relying on verbal or nonverbal
channels, different self-presentational strategies will produce different outcomes.
However, past research has not focused on the stylistic manner by which courtship
goals might be achieved. The communicator style approach focuses on the
368 J. A. Hall et al.
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identification of communication tendencies that describe a particular manner of
conveying interest in the opposite sex. This approach attempts to isolate dominant
dispositional fashions of conveying interest (Norton, 1983). Each style isolates a
manner of communication that is both self-presentational and goal directed and is
expected to reflect the personality, attitudes and beliefs about courtship, and
self-presentational concerns of the communicator.
The Five Flirting Styles
The five flirting styles were developed to incorporate research on goals, strategies,
and motivations in flirting; the importance of gender roles, and other research on
courtship initiation. Like communicator style, the flirting styles are expected to be
relatively enduring but specific to the context of courtship initiation. Past research
on courtship has not conceived of a typology of the communication of attraction;
this project is the first to do so. In each of the following sections, the conceptualiza-
tion of each style is discussed.
The Traditional Flirting Style
The traditional flirting style measures the degree to which individuals behave within
the ascribed limits of traditional gender roles during courtship. Individuals who score
high on this style should behaviorally adhere to gender-specific roles: a man being the
aggressor in courtship initiation and a woman being comparatively passive. Studies
have suggested that, despite progress in gender equality, men are still expected to
make the first verbal move, to approach women, lead the interaction, and to make
a request for future engagements (Koeppel et al., 1993; McDaniel, 2005; Mongeau,
Serewicz, Henningsen, & Davis, 2006; Rose & Frieze, 1993; Trost & Alberts, 2006).
Although women do play a role in signaling receptiveness through prolonged eye
contact or other nonverbal behaviors, men and women agree that men are expected
to initiate verbal contact (de Weerth & Kalma, 1995; Grammer et al., 2000; Impett &
Peplau, 2003).
2
The measurement of attitudes toward gender roles in courtship has been explored
in other research on date initiation (McDaniel, 2005; Mongeau et al., 2006), but only
one scale measuring a similar construct could be identified. Viki, Abrams, and
Hutchison (2003) created a paternalistic chivalry scale that measured attitudes that
are both courteous and considerate to women, but placed restrictions on behavior
considered appropriate for women during courtship. Rather than exploring a variety
of gender roles in diverse contexts used in Viki et al., this study focuses only on court-
ship initiation. Although Viki et al. found no sex differences, women will be more
likely to advocate this flirting style because by allowing men to initiate, women lessen
the risk of rejection or making a negative impression (McDaniel, 2005). Men are
expected to be willing to allow women to make the first move and to relinquish their
role as aggressor because of the perceived benefits of a woman-initiated conversation,
Communication Quarterly 369
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such as sexual contact (Mongeau & Johnson, 1995) and seductive behavior (Koeppel
et al., 1993).
The Physical Flirting Style
The second flirting style is based on the prevalence of sexual communication court-
ship initiation. Flirting motivations (Henningsen, 2004), first date goals (Mongeau
et al., 2004), short-term and long-term mate selection (Regan & Dreyer, 1999;
Regan, Levin, Sprecher, Christopher, & Cate, 2000; Weaver & Herold, 2000), and
pick-up lines (Hall et al., 2008) consistently suggest that the possibility of sexual
contact is an important and common component of courtship. The relative direct-
ness and affiliation of verbal courtship strategies also play a central role in defining
the meaning of the relational message (Hall et al., 2008; Solomon, 2007). In
addition, displaying sexual desire is a critical component of nonverbal communi-
cation of romantic interest by both men and women (Grammer et al., 2000;
Koeppel et al., 1993; Moore, 1985; Simpson et al., 1993). In sum, the communi-
cation of romantic interest is highly related to the degree to which individuals
employ a physical communicator style.
The physical communication style in the context of courtship has not been inves-
tigated.
3
Although many molecular-level behaviors have been associated with sexual
attraction in nonverbal research (e.g., Grammer et al., 2000; Koeppel et al., 1993;
Moore, 1985), this inventory does not measure the prevalence or frequency of any
given behavior (e.g., a head cant, leg display, and strutting). Instead, it focuses on
a molar-level style of communication. Individuals who are high in the physical style
should be more comfortable expressing their desire physically, and will report an
ability to show interest through behavior. Those who score high are more likely to
have their behavior interpreted as sexual, and would be less likely to have difficulty
conveying interest. Individuals low in the physical style would be uncomfortable
expressing their sexuality, and would be reticent to show their sexual interest in
another person. It is unknown whether sex differences will be found. Although
men are more dominant in courtship initiations, especially verbally (McDaniel,
2005), women often take a leading role in attracting men’s attention through non-
verbal sexual displays (Grammer et al., 2000; Mongeau et al., 2006).
The Sincere Flirting Style
The sincere flirting style is marked by a desire to create an emotional bond with a
potential romantic partner. Past research on flirting strategies confirm that this style
of communicating attraction is preferred and effective (C. L. Clark et al., 1999; Hall
et al., 2008). Seeking an emotional connection with a partner was rated as most
agreeable, desirable, and most honest of all strategies (C. L. Clark et al., 1999).
One of the primary methods of developing intimacy in a first encounter is eliciting
self-disclosure and showing personal interest (R. A. Clark et al., 2004; Hall et al.,
370 J. A. Hall et al.
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2008; Hess et al., 2007). Developing an emotional connection is an important
first-date goal (Mongeau et al., 2004) and the most common motivation for flirting
(Henningsen, 2004).
The sincere flirting style is most akin to intimacy goals. Individuals who have high
intimacy goals seek relationships that involve self-disclosure, mutual dependence,
and emotional attachment (Sanderson, 2004; Sanderson & Cantor, 1995; Sanderson
et al., 2007). They are more likely to use initiation strategies that emphasize connec-
tion and interdependence, give social support, and elicit self-disclosure. The sincere
flirting style is defined as a desire to communicate interest by being friendly and
showing a sincere and personal interest in a potential partner. Individuals who score
high on this style are expected convey romantic interest by seeking an emotional con-
nection. This style is effective at conveying sincerity but not at communicating sexual
interest. It is non-threatening and nonsexual, and may run into difficultly when
individuals want to escalate at different rates. Research on intimacy goals does
not demonstrate sex differences (Sanderson & Cantor, 1995; Sanderson et al.,
2007), but women prefer verbal strategies that focus on emotional connection
(Cunningham, 1989; Kleinke et al., 1986), and are less likely to desire swift progress
through relational turning points (Mongeau et al., 2006).
The Playful Flirting Style
The playful flirting style is designed to capture a style of communication of attraction
that views flirting as fun and not necessarily tied to relationship development.
Koeppel et al. (1993) identified ‘‘flirting as common fun’’ as a culturally reinforced
belief about flirting. Henningsen (2004) identified fun as one of the motivations in
flirting, noting that flirting is often engaged in for the enjoyment of the activity itself.
Finally, Mongeau et al. (2004) identified that ‘‘having a good time’’ is an important
first date goal.
The measurement of this flirting style is most associated with behaviors that are
playful, flirty, fun, and prone to dismissing the necessity of a link between flirting
and beginning a relationship. This is a style in which a communicator is not parti-
cularly worried about how others may interpret his or her behavior. Sex differences
may emerge in this flirting style. Similar to Henningsen’s (2004) suggestion that
women are more motivated by fun when flirting, Mongeau et al. (2004) reported
that women are more likely to report fun being a goal on a first date. However,
Koeppel et al. (1993) did not report gender differences in the belief that flirting is
common fun.
The Polite Flirting Style
The final flirting style attempts to capture a more rule-governed and cautious
approach to the communication of romantic interest. This style is expected to
embrace politeness, refuse to engage in inappropriate or overtly sexual behaviors,
Communication Quarterly 371
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have a strong adherence to courtship rules, and adopt a cautious approach to
courtship initiation. Koeppel et al. (1993) noted that the concern for appearing
too forward and the potential of men’s misinterpretation of women’s behavior
may lead women to adopt behaviors that are more cautious. Men who adopt a more
polite approach to dating often find their dating partners assume they are not inter-
ested in developing a romantic relationship (McDaniel, 2005). Those who score high
on this style may be concerned about an image of looking needy, trying too hard,
embarrassing oneself, loosing control, or appearing too aggressive (Leary, 1995;
McDaniel, 2005). Those who have a flirting style that is more polite are expected
to have more conservative attitudes about first date roles and scripts (Rose & Frieze,
1993; Urbaniak & Kilmann, 2003). Those who score high on the polite style
may find communicating sexual interest and drawing attention to oneself through
nonverbal behavior difficult. Those who score low on this style are more willing to
behave in a less cautious manner, worry less about social convention and appropri-
ateness norms, and be willing to use forward or aggressive behavior during courtship.
Women are expected to score higher on this style. Sexual harassment and the
possibility of sexual coercion is a greater concern for women than for men, which
may inspire a more cautious approach to flirting (Koeppel et al., 1993).
Method and Result
The method employed and the results found are presented together in the following
section to best illustrate the sequential steps of scale refinement and validation.
Item Generation
In developing the flirting styles questionnaire, five mutually exclusive definitions
were created for each style. Specific items were written that directly stated the under-
lying concept of each item, and other items measured attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors
that corresponded to each flirting style. One hundred thirteen items were generated
in the initial list, with an approximately equal number of items on each scale.
Analysis of Initial Item Pool
The initial item pool was examined using 111 undergraduate students from an inter-
personal communication course at a private university in the Southwest United
States (52% women; M
age
¼ 20.4, SD ¼ 2.12). All items were measured on a 7-point
Likert-type scale, ranging from 1 (strongly disagree) to 7 (strongly agree). Partial
course credit was given in exchange for a completed survey.
Items were then analyzed using exploratory factor analysis (EFA). The goal of this
initial analysis was to reduce the number of items, and determine the highest loading
items. Promax oblique rotation and principle axis factors were used because the
flirting styles were expected to correlate with one another (Fabrigar, Wegener,
372 J. A. Hall et al.
Downloaded By: [Hall, Jeffrey A.] At: 23:34 29 November 2010
MacCallum, & Strahan, 1999; Floyd & Widaman, 1995; Russell, 2002). All five factors
had eigenvalues over 1. Items with loadings > .40 on any one of the five factors were
retained to be conservative in item retention for the final scale refinement in the lar-
ger and more diverse second sample. Reliability analyses were calculated for all items
loading on each factor, and items with inter-item correlations below .30 were
dropped. Fifty-one items were retained for the final scale refinement.
Final Scale Refinement
Sample. The 51 items derived from the previous study were administered to users
of a large online dating site through an e-mail solicitation attached to a newsletter in
February 2007. Only respondents who completed the entire survey instrument were
included in the final dataset. Duplicate and triplicate IP addresses were identified and
deleted (N ¼ 112) to decrease the possibility of the same respondent completing the
survey more than once. All non-heterosexual respondents were eliminated, and all
respondents who did not indicate sex were eliminated. The final dataset included
5,020 participants. Participants were 74% women, and the entire sample had an aver-
age age of 39.8 years (range ¼ 18–96; SD ¼ 11.4). The median highest education level
was a bachelor’s degree, and median household income was $40,000 to 60,000. Part-
icipants were primarily White, non-Hispanic (83.2%), with 4.1% Hispanic, 5.3%
African American, 3.5% Asian American, and 3.6% ‘‘other.’’ Fifty-two percent of
participants indicated their marital status was single, never married, whereas 42.5%
were divorced, 4.2% were separated, 1.4% were widowed, and 0.3% indicated they
were married. Slightly more than two thirds (67.4%) of the sample indicated they
were ‘‘not in a romantic relationship,’’ 22% were casually dating, 7.6% were seriously
dating or engaged to be married, and 2.7% listed ‘‘other.’’
Item analysis. First, scale items were examined for skewness to determine if any
items had nonnormal distributions. No items were skewed > 2 or had a kurtosis > 7,
which were parameters recommended by Floyd and Widaman (1995). Second,
the data were randomly split into two equally sized samples. An EFA was conducted
on one of the two groups. The results provided a basis for specifying a confirmatory
factor model in subsequent analyses (Floyd & Widaman, 1995; Russell, 2002). Both
samples were much larger than the minimum size recommended to conduct both
EFAs and confirmatory factor analyses (CFAs; Floyd & Widaman, 1995; Russell,
2002).
An EFA was conducted on one half of the sample (N ¼ 2,510). Promax oblique
rotation and principle axis factoring were used. Oblique rotation was used, rather
than orthogonal, because correlations between flirting styles were expected (Floyd
& Widaman, 1995; Russell, 2002). Although the eigenvalues and scree plot analysis
indicated that a five-factor model was superior (all eigenvalues > 2), to be conserva-
tive in this analysis, items loading on a sixth factor were retained to prevent the possi-
bility of removing items relevant to the final EFA. The eight items that did not load
on any of these six factors were deleted (Russell, 2002). The final EFA was preformed
on a list of 43 items.
Communication Quarterly 373
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Russell (2002), Fabrigar et al. (1999), and Floyd and Widaman (1995) recom-
mended the use of both eigenvalues and scree plots to determine the optimal
number of factors. Eigenvalues were 7.0, 4.9, 3.0, 2.4, and 1.9, respectively, for the
first five factors; and the scree plot demonstrated a clear break after five factors.
These five factors explained 45% of the variance. Russell recommended identifying
between 4 and 6 items for each factor when developing an inventory, which would
result in 20 to 30 items in this analysis. It was hoped that scales of this length
would allow for adequate reliability while being short enough to administer quickly
in future research. When factors are expected to have moderate communalities, items
with loadings > .30 are considered meaningful (Floyd & Widaman, 1995). For the
five factors, all items loading over .30 according to the pattern matrix, demonstrating
inter-item correlations higher than .35, and low loadings on other factors were
identified. The final inventory of 26 items and their respective loadings can be viewed
in Table 1.
CFA. CFA procedures are best reserved for testing a factor model, rather than
shortening and refining a list of items (Russell, 2002). Using LISREL 8.8 (Jo
¨
reskog
& So
¨
bom, 1996), a CFA was conducted to test the fit of the global model, as well
as the loadings and cross-loadings of the individual items. A five-factor model was
tested. The five styles were represented by latent variables, with each item loading
on its respective latent factor as predicted by the EFA. Items were not allowed to load
on multiple factors. Regression weights were set at 1 for a randomly selected item for
each factor. The five latent factors were allowed to covary, and measurement error
was assumed to be uncorrelated between items (Byrne, 1998). Modification indexes
were requested and examined to determine if any items loaded on multiple factors.
All of the items significantly loaded on their respective latent factors, with t values all
exceeding 14. The regression weights for items ranged between 1.59 and "1.50. All of
the items were strong and reliable indicators of the latent variable, with squared
multiple correlations ranging from .20 to .84 (Byrne, 1998).
The modification indexes indicated that some items were predicted to cross-load on
other factors. The recommendations of the modification indexes were used to create
four- and six-factor models. The model fit was considerably better for the five-factor
model than for either four- or six-factor models. The goodness-of-fit statistics demon-
strated that a five-factor model had a root mean square error of approximation of .053
(90% confidence interval ¼ .051–.055), which is considered an excellent fit (Byrne,
1998). Although the chi-square value was 2,311.93 with 289 df, which was significant,
with larger samples, the chi-square values are less important than other fit statistics
(Byrne, 1998). The final 26-item inventory was supported by the CFA.
Reliability and Scale Norms
Scale reliabilities and intercorrelations. The internal consistencies of the five scales,
as well as their intercorrelations, means, and standard deviations, separated by
respondent sex, based on 5,020 participants, are presented in Table 2. Scale reliabil-
ities appear in the diagonal, correlations between scales for women appear below the
374 J. A. Hall et al.
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Table 1 Items and Promax-Rotated Principle Axis Factor Loadings on the Five Scales
of the Flirting Styles Inventory
Item Traditional Physical Playful Sincere Polite
3. Men should pursue women, not the
other way around
0.90 0.05 0.02 "0.01 0.00
8. Men should make the first move 0.90 0.01 0.03 0.04 "0.04
13. Despite how our society is changing, it
is still up to a man to take control in
initiating relationships
0.75 "0.04 0.06 0.01 "0.02
25. I wish that we could go back to a time
where formal dating was the norm
0.37 "0.04 0.01 "0.03 0.18
18. A woman assertively pursuing a man is
fine with me
"0.66 0.04 0.08 0.01 "0.01
23. It doesn’t matter who makes the first
move, as long as it happens
"0.65 0.02 0.08 0.09 0.03
2. I am good at showing my sexual
interest
"0.02 0.91 0.00 "0.02 "0.02
12. I am good at using body language to
flirt
0.03 0.75 0.11 0.07 "0.01
7. I am good at picking up on the sexual
interest of others
0.08 0.75 "0.01 0.03 "0.01
17. I have no problem letting others know
I am interested in them
"0.10 0.69 "0.04 0.00 0.04
22. I always let the opposite sex know when
I am sexually interested in them
"0.05 0.68 "0.02 "0.09 0.00
4. Flirting is just for fun; people don’t
need to be so serious
"0.03 "0.04 0.89 "0.03 0.05
9. Flirting can be harmless fun "0.07 "0.05 0.78 0.07 "0.04
19. I flirt with people I have absolutely no
interest in
0.04 0.02 0.56 "0.10 0.00
14. The primary reason I flirt is because it
makes me feel good about myself
0.04 0.16 0.40 0.03 "0.01
1. Making a real connection with others
can be exciting
0.02 "0.03 0.05 0.67 "0.07
6. I really enjoy learning about another
person’s interest
"0.05 "0.03 "0.03 0.65 "0.01
11. I really look for an emotional
connection with someone I’m
interested in
"0.03 "0.02 "0.07 0.64 "0.01
16. I love a well-placed compliment from
the opposite sex
0.02 0.04 0.05 0.50 "0.04
(Continued )
Communication Quarterly 375
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diagonal, and correlations between styles for men appear above the diagonal. Due to
the large dataset and the concern for conservative data analysis, only correlations that
were significant at the p < .001 level are reported. All five scales show adequate inter-
nal consistencies, with Cronbach’s alphas ranging from .68 to .87.
The intercorrelations between the factors were rather low, indicating the items
were distinct measures. The traditional flirting style is positively related to the polite
flirting style for both men and women, and negatively related to the playful flirting
style for women. For women, being a playful or physical flirt is negatively related
Table 1 Continued
Item Traditional Physical Playful Sincere Polite
21. Showing sincere interest is the best way
to let someone know you are interested
in them
"0.04 0.02 "0.05 0.44 0.16
26. In today’s society, people have to be
careful about flirting
"0.07 "0.01 "0.04 "0.08 0.63
10. People should be cautious when letting
someone know they are interested
"0.04 "0.02 0.03 "0.13 0.59
24. There are rules about how men and
women should conduct themselves
0.16 0.02 0.03 0.02 0.54
20. When dating, people should always be
polite and use proper manners
0.01 0.08 "0.04 0.14 0.46
15. It is important not to say something
overly sexual when showing interest
0.01 "0.03 0.03 0.08 0.39
5. Being too physically forward can be a
turnoff
0.17 "0.03 0.04 0.16 0.30
Note. N ¼ 5,020. Values in boldface type represent grouped factor loadings.
Table 2 Means, Standard Deviations, Intercorrelations, and Reliabilities of the Five
Flirting Styles
Men Women
Style M SD M SD Physical Traditional Polite Sincere Playful
Physical 3.54 1.29 3.76 1.29 0.87 "0.02 "0.03 0.14
#
0.25
#
Traditional 3.10 0.88 4.15 1.18 "0.29
#
0.86 0.35
#
"0.07 "0.02
Polite 4.81 0.85 5.17 0.79 "0.08
#
0.34
#
0.68 0.22
#
"0.14
#
Sincere 5.99 0.59 6.24 0.53 0.12
#
0.04 0.25
#
0.71 "0.03
Playful 3.64 1.16 3.52 1.19 0.22
#
"0.15
#
"0.16
#
"0.04 0.75
Note. N ¼ 5,020. Cronbach’s alpha scores are on the diagonal, and female intercorrelations are below the
diagonal.
#
p < .001.
376 J. A. Hall et al.
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to behaving within traditional gender roles. The physical flirting style is positively
related to the sincere and playful flirting styles for men and women, and negatively
related to the traditional flirting style for women. The sincere flirting style is unre-
lated to the playful flirting style. The sincere flirting style is also unrelated to the
traditional style for both men and women, suggesting that they are distinct measures
of flirting behavior. The playful flirting style is positively related to the physical style
and negatively related to the polite style for both men and women. Finally, the polite
flirting style is positively related to the sincere flirting style and negatively related to
the playful flirting style for both men and women. Individuals who are slow-paced
and cautious in their communication of attraction are more likely to seek an
emotional and sincere connection with others and less likely to be playful.
Gender Differences
All flirting styles demonstrated significant sex differences (see Table 2). Women were
significantly more likely to report traditional, t(4,928) ¼ 26.00, p < .001; physical,
t(4,987) ¼ 5.87, p < .001; sincere, t(4,979) ¼ 14.73, p < .001; and polite,
t(4,970) ¼ 13.58, p < .001, flirting styles than men. Men were more likely to describe
themselves as having a playful flirting style, t(4,977) ¼ 3.29, p < .001.
Flirting Style, Personality, and Self-Monitoring
Correlations with the five-factor model of personality (FFM). To examine the
relation between the flirting styles inventory and broader dimensions of personality,
a personality inventory was administered in the second study. The FFM has
been related to romantic relationship behaviors (Barelds & Barelds-Dijkstra, 2007;
Nettle & Clegg, 2008; Schmitt, 2004). The measure assessed the five domains that
are seen in the FFM as accounting for most of the variance in personality traits:
extraversion, agreeableness, conscientiousness, neuroticism, and openness. The items
measuring each dimension were found to be reliable (extraversion, a ¼ .87; agreeable-
ness, a ¼ .75; conscientiousness, a ¼ .80; neuroticism, a ¼ .81; openness, a ¼ .75), and
were sum scored (M
extraversion
¼ 3.99, SD ¼ 0.81; M
agreeableness
¼ 5.91, SD ¼ 0.56;
M
conscientiousness
¼ 4.73, SD ¼ 0.61; M
neuroticism
¼ 3.29, SD ¼ 0.73; M
openness
¼ 3.89,
SD ¼ 0.54).
Table 3 separately presents the correlations between the five flirting styles and the
five personality factors for women and men. The traditional flirting style is negatively
related to openness and extraversion, but only for women, demonstrating that behav-
ing within gender roles correlates with a lack of openness to new experiences and a
more introverted personality for women. The traditional style is also positively
related to neuroticism for women. For men, the traditional style is also negatively
related to openness, but unrelated to the other personality factors.
For women and men, the physical flirting style is positively related to extraversion
and openness. The physical style was also positively correlated with agreeableness and
conscientiousness, and negatively related to neuroticism.
Communication Quarterly 377
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The sincere flirting style was correlated with extraversion, agreeableness, and
conscientiousness for both men and women. The sincere style was also positively
related to openness and negatively related to neuroticism. In comparison to the
physical style, the sincere style evidenced stronger correlations with agreeableness
and openness, but less strong correlations with extroversion.
For both men and women, the playful flirting style is positively related extraver-
sion and positively related to openness, but only for women. The playful style is also
negatively related to conscientiousness, reflecting a lack of concern with the reactions
of others. For women, the playful style was also negatively related to agreeableness.
For both men and women, the polite style is positively related to agreeableness and
conscientiousness. For women, the polite style was negatively related to extroversion.
Polite men and women are agreeable and conscientious, and polite women are also
more introverted.
Correlations with self-monitoring. Self-monitors are generally characterized as
possessing acting ability, extraversion, and other-directedness (Snyder, 1987; Snyder
& Gangestad, 1986). Self-monitoring has been theoretically linked to differences in
self-presentational styles and dating strategies. The high self-monitor is pragmatic
and behaves strategically to obtain desired outcomes, regulating public expressions
and monitoring self-presentations for the sake of creating and maintaining desired
public appearances (Snyder, 1987). High self-monitors will strategically adapt their
Table 3 Flirting Styles With Big Five Personality and Self-Monitoring
Personality Physical Traditional Polite Sincere Playful
Women
a
Extraversion 0.41
#
"0.14
#
"0.11
#
0.15
#
0.17
#
Agreeableness 0.12
#
"0.06 0.11
#
0.25
#
"0.05
#
Conscientiousness 0.11
#
"0.05
#
0.07
#
0.13
#
"0.12
#
Neuroticism "0.18
#
0.10
#
0.03 "0.09
#
0.00
Openness 0.16
#
"0.12
#
"0.01 0.22
#
0.05
#
Self-monitoring actor 0.24
#
"0.05
#
"0.09
#
0.04
#
0.20
#
Self-monitoring other-directedness "0.06
#
0.03 "0.07
#
"0.11
#
0.21
#
Men
b
Extraversion 0.47
#
0.02 "0.02 0.19
#
0.20
#
Agreeableness 0.13
#
"0.02 0.10
#
0.32
#
"0.06
Conscientiousness 0.18
#
"0.06 0.14
#
0.16
#
"0.11
#
Neuroticism "0.24
#
0.04 0.05 "0.08 "0.03
Openness 0.17
#
"0.12
#
0.01 0.28
#
0.01
Self-monitoring actor 0.35
#
0.01 "0.06 0.10
#
0.19
#
Self-monitoring other-directedness "0.04 "0.04 "0.10
#
"0.06 0.17
#
a
N ¼ 3,605.
b
N ¼ 1,281.
#
p < .001.
378 J. A. Hall et al.
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self-presentations to get dates (Hall, Park, Song, & Cody, 2010). High self-monitors
date exclusively for briefer periods of time (relative to low self-monitors), date more
different people in 1 year, have sex with more people in 1 year, and have more
one-night stands than low self-monitors. Low self-monitors present themselves in
ways that reflect their true, authentic attitudes, values, and beliefs, and reject using
emotional manipulations when influencing others (Barbuto & Moss, 2006; Smith,
Cody, LoVette, & Canary, 1990).
Participants completed the revised self-monitoring scale (Gangestad & Snyder,
2000), which measured two dimensions of self-monitoring: actor- and other-
directedness. The actor-directed scale measures the ability to put on a social perform-
ance, whereas the other-directed scale evaluates the degree to which individuals
modify their behavior for the benefit of others or differing contexts. Both measures
were found to be reliable (actor-directed, a ¼ .79; other-directed, a ¼ .73), and were
sum scored (M
actor-directed
¼ 3.79, SD ¼ 1.06; M
other-directed
¼ 3.45, SD ¼ 0.93; see
Table 3).
The traditional style is negatively correlated with a self-monitoring actor for
women, suggesting that women who are traditional are not comfortable putting on
a social performance. Self-monitoring is not related to the traditional style for
men. The physical flirting style is positively related to a self-monitoring actor, which
indicates those who are comfortable expressing their sexual interest in others are able
to put on a good social performance. For women, the physical style is negatively
related to a self-monitoring other, which suggests a reticence to change behavior
for the benefit of others. The sincere style was positively related to a self-monitoring
actor, but negatively related to self-monitoring other-directedness. Establishing an
emotional connection in courtship correlates with a lack of motivation to change
for the purposes of other people or contexts, although it reflects an ability to act.
The playful style is positively related to both dimensions of self-monitoring, suggest-
ing individuals are able to both augment behavior for the benefit of others and put
on a good social performance. The polite flirting style is negatively related to
both dimensions of self-monitoring. The polite style appears to be a classic low
self-monitor.
Predictive Validity
Correlations with flirting experiences. Seven single- and multiple-item constructs
measuring flirting experiences were utilized to examine the predictive validity of
the flirting styles inventory. Items measured the number of persons for whom
respondents felt a romantic interest, the number of those with whom respondents
flirted, the misreading of sexual interest from others, the frequency of interest
expressed from others, and the degree that flirting and pick-up lines are flattering
and inviting. Construct means and standard deviations are presented along with
correlations to flirting styles in Table 4.
In comparison to men, the traditional flirting style is more predictive of women’s
flirting behavior. Women, but not men, who are high in a traditional flirting style are
Communication Quarterly 379
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Table 4 Flirting Styles and Flirting Experiences
Style and experience M SD Physical Traditional Polite Sincere Playful
Women
a
In the past 6 months, how many people have you had a romantic interest in? 2.08 1.67 0.07
#
"0.03 "0.13
#
0.03 0.13
#
Of this number of people, how many would you say you have flirted with?
(1 ¼ none, 5 ¼ all)
3.30 1.65 0.29
#
"0.15
#
"0.06
#
0.09
#
0.15
#
I have been in situations where I thought someone was flirting with me, but
they weren’t (1 ¼ never, 5 ¼ always)
2.45 0.77 "0.10
#
0.09
#
0.04 "0.02 0.06
#
Other people think I am flirting, when I am not (2 items) 2.75 0.86 "0.21
#
"0.04 0.02 0.03 0.31
#
I can’t get others to notice when I am flirting with them (2 items) 2.82 0.91 "0.53
#
0.17
#
0.00 "0.06
#
"0.07
#
If someone flirts with me, it is flattering (2 items) 5.04 1.11 0.25
#
"0.07
#
"0.07
#
0.16
#
0.51
#
People of the opposite sex flirt with me nearly everywhere I go (2 items) 3.30 0.99 0.60
#
"0.07
#
0.00 0.11
#
0.24
#
Men
b
In the past 6 months, how many people have you had a romantic interest in? 2.83 2.13 0.07 "0.08 "0.14
#
0.05 0.08
#
Of this number of people, how many would you say you have flirted with?
(1 ¼ none, 5 ¼ all)
3.26 1.58 0.27
#
"0.06 "0.06 0.08 0.21
#
I have been in situations where I thought someone was flirting with me, but
they weren’t (1 ¼ never, 5 ¼ always)
2.77 0.86 "0.11
#
0.03 0.01 "0.03 0.00
Other people think I am flirting, when I am not (2 items) 2.69 0.84 "0.22
#
0.03 0.02 0.05 0.37
#
I can’t get others to notice when I am flirting with them (2 items) 3.09 0.87 "0.50
#
"0.04 0.01 "0.06 "0.09
#
If someone flirts with me, it is flattering (2 items) 4.90 1.08 0.23
#
"0.02 "0.05 0.25
#
0.42
#
People of the opposite sex flirt with me nearly everywhere I go (2 items) 2.92 0.94 0.63
#
0.05 "0.01 0.09
#
0.31
#
a
N ¼ 3,622.
b
N ¼ 1,289.
#
p < .001.
380
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less likely to approach members of the opposite sex in whom they are interested,
and more likely to report they mistakenly interpret the opposite sex as flirting
with them. Women are also more likely to report having difficulty communicating
their interest for another person or ‘‘getting noticed.’’ Women are also less likely
to find flirting flattering, and less frequently perceive others flirting with them.
One unique correlation for men demonstrates that men with high scores on the
traditional style reported feeling romantic interest in fewer people. Overall, women
who score high in the traditional style flirt less with potential romantic interests,
are less likely to be flattered by flirting, and are more likely to have difficulty getting
men to notice them.
Women and men who are high in the physical flirting style are more likely to have
romantic interest in others, and are much more likely to flirt with the people in
whom they report a romantic interest. They are less likely to report being in situa-
tions where they mistakenly thought others were flirting with them, and to report
other people perceiving them as flirting when they were not. In addition, they are
much less likely to report having difficulty getting others to know they are flirting.
This suggests that the physical flirting style is related to clarity and accuracy in encod-
ing and decoding the communication of interest. Respondents high in the physical
style report that others flirt with them ‘‘nearly everywhere I go,’’ and that when other
people flirt with them, it is flattering.
The sincere flirting style showed few sex differences. Individuals high in the sincere
style approach members of the opposite sex in whom they are interested, find flirting
flattering, and believe that others are flirting with them ‘‘nearly everywhere I go.’’
Women high in the sincere style also find it easier to communicate romantic attrac-
tion in others. The sincere style is related to a proactive approach to flirting; a greater
reception to the flirting; and, for women, a greater ease in communicating romantic
attraction.
Correlations with the playful flirting style demonstrate that men and women who
were high on the playful style are more likely to report romantic interest in others
and more likely to flirt with those in whom they are interested. Both men and women
are more likely to find flirting flattering and to believe that members of the opposite
sex flirt with them everywhere they go. Men are more likely to report that others
believe they are flirting when they are not, and report less difficulty getting others
to notice their flirting. Those high in the playful flirting style see flirting everywhere
and are more likely to be romantically interested in others, and act on those interests.
They have little difficulty getting others to notice them, but report other people
perceive them as flirtatious, even when they do not intend it.
Correlations with the polite flirting style reveal that both men and women who
scored high on the polite style are interested in fewer members of the opposite sex
in the past month. Women, but not men, who are high in the polite flirting
style are also less likely to approach potential romantic interests and less likely to find
flirting flattering. Those high on the polite style do not see many opportunities to
communicate romantic attraction; and, for women, are less likely to take action when
they do meet others in whom they are interested.
Communication Quarterly 381
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Correlations with flirting success. To establish another type of predictive validity
with the flirting styles inventory, the participants were asked about their most recent
flirting experience. There were four dimensions of the flirting experience evaluated.
The success of flirting was measured on a seven-item measure (‘‘My flirting was suc-
cessful,’’ a ¼ .83). The level of personal confidence in the interaction was measured,
using a six-item measure (‘‘I felt good about myself,’’ a ¼ .85). The establishment of
relational potential was measured using a three-item measure (‘‘I found out that the
person was not involved romantically with anyone,’’ and ‘‘I communicated my
romantic interest to the person,’’ a ¼ .72). The degree to which the individual had
a prior relationship with the partner was measured using a two-item measure (‘‘I
knew this person well before the interaction,’’ r ¼ .54). These four inventories were
then separately correlated with flirting styles for men and for women. Respondents
were also asked how quickly they felt an attraction to the person, how soon
they had a personal conversation, how soon they had a private conversation, and
whether they actually flirted with that person. Construct means and standard
deviations presented along with correlations with flirting styles in Table 5.
The traditional flirting style demonstrates different correlations for women and
men. Women, but not men, who are high in the traditional style are less likely to
report a successful flirting success, less likely to feel self-confident, and less likely
to establish relationship potential. Very traditional women do not (are not able to)
successfully participate in the communication of interest. For men, however, these
negative correlations do not appear. For men, higher traditional style is related to
a longer prior relationship with the partner, which suggests traditional style men
are more likely to wait until an existing relationship exists before flirting with a
woman. Women who are high in traditional flirting style took longer to experience
attraction with potential romantic interest, and less likely to have a personal or
private conversation with that person and flirt with that person. These negative
correlations did not appear for men.
For both men and women, the physical flirting style was positively related to the
success of the interaction, the self-confidence experienced, and the establishment
of relational potential. This suggests that physical flirting style is strongly related to
the direct and confident communication of romantic interest. Those high in the
physical flirting style are more likely to quickly feel an attraction with someone, to
have a personal and private conversation with that person, and to actually flirt
with that person.
Sincere flirting style is positively related to the success, self-confidence felt, and the
establishment of relationship potential for both men and women. The sincere style is
also related to a greater likelihood of having a personal and private conversation
with someone for whom they have romantic interest, and more likely to report
flirting with that person. The sincere style is related to the establishment of a positive
connection through personal and private conversation.
The playful flirting style is positively related to flirting success and self-confidence,
but not the establishment of relationship potential. The playful style was positively
related to flirting with potential romantic interest, but not with having a personal
382 J. A. Hall et al.
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Table 5 Correlations With Last Relationship
Variable M SD Physical Traditional Polite Sincere Playful
Women
a
Flirting success 5.40 0.95 0.46
#
"0.15
#
0.02 0.24
#
0.14
#
Know the person 2.61 1.68 0.03 0.03 "0.02 "0.03 "0.04
Felt good about self 5.36 0.97 0.48
#
"0.13
#
0.02 0.26
#
0.17
#
Established relationship potential 4.53 1.33 0.38
#
"0.12
#
0.00 0.13
#
0.01
When did you first feel a romantic attraction to this person? (right away ¼ 1,
over 1 year after meeting ¼ 6)
2.80 1.48 "0.10
#
0.05
#
0.04 "0.03 "0.01
How often have you had a personal conversation with this person?
(never ¼ 1, many times ¼ 5)
4.00 1.21 0.13
#
"0.05
#
"0.01 0.06
#
0.02
How often have you had a private conversation (i.e., one-on-one time) with
this person? (never ¼ 1, many times ¼ 5)
3.64 1.41 0.16
#
"0.08
#
"0.01 0.06
#
0.02
Have you flirted with this person? (1 ¼ yes) 0.82 0.38 0.24
#
"0.12
#
"0.08
#
0.07
#
0.10
#
Men
b
Flirting success 5.07 0.96 0.47
#
"0.07 "0.04 0.25
#
0.17
#
Know the person 2.63 1.60 0.01 0.09
#
0.05 "0.02 "0.03
Felt good about self 5.08 1.02 0.50
#
"0.03 0.00 0.24
#
0.22
#
Established relationship potential 4.23 1.31 0.42
#
0.00 "0.01 0.15
#
0.06
When did you first feel a romantic attraction to this person? (right away ¼ 1,
over 1 year after meeting ¼ 6)
2.53 1.50 "0.09
#
0.05 0.01 "0.02 0.03
How often have you had a personal conversation with this person?
(never ¼ 1, many times ¼ 5)
3.69 1.28 0.16
#
0.01 0.02 0.11
#
0.00
How often have you had a private conversation (i.e., one-on-one time) with
this person? (never ¼ 1, many times ¼ 5)
3.17 1.49 0.18
#
"0.01 0.02 0.12
#
"0.01
Have you flirted with this person? (1 ¼ yes) 0.76 0.43 0.24
#
0.00 "0.05 0.07 0.15
#
a
N ¼ 3,622.
b
N ¼ 1,272.
#
p < .001.
383
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or private conversation. The playful flirt is not likely to seek relationship potential
with the object of their attraction, and unlikely to seek romantic intimacy through
conversation when flirting.
The polite flirting style was unrelated to any of the four most recent flirting experi-
ence measures. The only significant correlation indicated that women with a more
polite style are less likely to flirt with someone in whom they are interested.
Correlations with the most recent relationship. To test whether the flirting style cor-
responded with past relationship behaviors, the respondents were asked to answer
questions about their most recent romantic partner. Four items measured the level
of physical chemistry between the partners (‘‘I felt an immediate physical chemistry
with him=her when we met,’’ a ¼ .86). Four items measured the importance of the
prior romantic partner (‘‘Our relationship was very important and meaningful,’’
a ¼ .82). Three items measured the degree of emotional connection (‘‘We had a
strong emotional connection,’’ a ¼ .76). Three items measured the pace of the
relationship (‘‘It took a while after we met before I knew he=she was attracted to
me,’’ a ¼ .74). Correlations were separately performed for men and women, and con-
struct means and standard deviations are presented in Table 6.
For women, the traditional flirting style is negatively related to experiencing sexual
chemistry and an emotional connection. For both men and women, the traditional
style is related to the pace of the relationship, wherein more traditional individuals
are likely to experience a slower pace in their relationship.
The physical flirting style is positively correlated with the sexual chemistry and the
importance of, and the emotional connection experienced with, the last dating part-
ner for both men and women. It is also negatively correlated with the pace of the
development of the relationship, indicating that a more physical flirting style leads
to a faster pace of relational development.
Table 6 Flirting Styles Correlations With Past Relationship Behaviors
Variable M SD Physical Traditional Polite Sincere Playful
Women
a
Physical chemistry 4.72 1.45 0.22
#
"0.10
#
"0.01 0.09
#
0.04
Important relationship 4.56 1.52 0.11
#
"0.02 0.12
#
0.13
#
"0.07
#
Emotional connection 5.05 1.29 0.14
#
"0.06 0.04 0.14
#
0.02
Slow-paced relationship 2.68 1.15 "0.22
#
0.07
#
0.00 "0.11
#
"0.04
Men
b
Physical chemistry 4.67 1.30 0.24
#
"0.06 "0.02 0.12
#
0.08
#
Important relationship 4.48 1.44 0.11
#
0.00 0.11
#
0.14
#
"0.07
#
Emotional connection 4.82 1.21 0.15
#
0.02 0.04 0.19
#
0.06
Slow-paced relationship 3.15 1.13 "0.25
#
0.10
#
0.05 "0.07
#
"0.10
#
a
N ¼ 3,561.
b
N ¼ 1,258.
#
p < .001.
384 J. A. Hall et al.
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The sincere flirting style is positively related to having a strong emotional connec-
tion, sexual chemistry, and an important and meaningful relationship, and negatively
related to a slow-paced development.
The playful flirting style is negatively related to having an important and meaning-
ful relationship for both men and women, and positively related to sexual chemistry
for men. For men, the playful flirting style is negatively related to a slower pace devel-
opment of the relationship, but this relationship is not significant for women.
The playful style is marked by the swift development of a relatively unimportant
relationship with high sexual chemistry, particularly for men.
The polite flirting style is positively related to the development of an important
and meaningful relationship but unrelated to sexual chemistry, emotional connec-
tion, or the pace of the relationship.
Discussion
The purpose of this investigation is to document the development and validation of
the flirting styles inventory. The five styles were created to document and measure
distinct dimensions of individual difference in the communication of romantic inter-
est. Through an incremental process of scale refinement, a final battery of 26 items
was developed. These 26 items created five unique factors with consistent reliabilities.
The five flirting styles demonstrated different relationships to flirting, dating, and
past relationship behaviors, and showed sex differences and strong relationships with
the FFM and self-monitoring.
The Traditional Flirting Style
Those scoring high on this style believe that men should make the first move, and
women should not pursue men. Those who score low are more likely to believe that
if a woman is assertive, it is acceptable, and that it does not matter who initiates a
relationship. There are more sex differences in the correlations between the tra-
ditional flirting style and dating and romantic communication behaviors than for
any other flirting style.
Women who are traditional flirts are less likely to communicate romantic attrac-
tion. They are less likely to flirt with potential partners and to be flattered by flirting,
and are more likely to report having trouble getting men to notice them. When flirt-
ing, they are less likely to report success, to feel confident, and to establish relation-
ship potential. Women took longer to experience romantic attraction with their most
recent romantic interest, and less likely to have a private and personal conversation
with that person. The limited role allowed by their traditional style leaves few options
for attracting a partner, which results in less courtship success. Once in a relationship,
the traditional flirting style is negatively related to experiencing sexual chemistry and
emotional connection for women.
Experiences are somewhat different for traditional men. Men with high scores on
the traditional style report feeling romantic interest with less people, and more likely
Communication Quarterly 385
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to know a potential relationship partner for a longer time before approaching them.
Two highly traditional partners would probably proceed slowly in all stages of court-
ship. Men would not find many potential partners, and once they had identified one,
they would develop a non-romantic relationship before acting on those romantic
desires. During that time, a traditional woman would be unreceptive to flirtation,
unlikely to communicate attraction, and once a relationship is initiated, would
experience less sexual chemistry and emotional connectedness.
Overall, individuals high on the traditional flirting style are introverted and not
comfortable playing a social role. The traditional style is negatively related to open-
ness and positively related to neuroticism for women. In relation to the other flirting
styles, the traditional flirting style is positively related to the polite flirting style for
both men and women but negatively related to the playful flirting style, but only
for women.
The Physical Flirting Style
This style measures the degree to which individuals are comfortable and competent
in expressing their sexual interest to a potential partner. Overall, there are few sex
differences in the correlates of this flirting style, but women are more likely to report
a physical flirting style. Individuals high in the physical style claim to be able to detect
the interest of others, and are willing and capable of conveying romantic interest.
They quickly feel an attraction with someone and engage in personal and private
conversation, which they report is successful and confident, wherein they establish
the possibility of a relationship. In their most recent relationships, those who are
high on the physical flirting style had a faster pace of relational development
with more sexual chemistry and emotional connection.
The physical flirting style is positively related to extraversion, openness, agreeable-
ness, conscientiousness, self-monitoring actor-directedness, and negatively related
to neuroticism. In relation to the other flirting styles, the physical flirting style is
negatively related to the traditional flirting style, but only for women. The physical
style is positively correlated with sincere and playful flirting styles. This suggests
that those who are comfortable expressing their interest in others physically are
also more likely to seek an emotional connection and have a playful manner of
flirting.
The Sincere Flirting Style
Those who are high on this style agree that emotional connection and showing sin-
cere interest is central to courtship. Individuals scoring high are more likely to
approach members of the opposite sex, to find flirting flattering, and to believe that
others are flirting with them everywhere they go. Through personal and private con-
versation with potential partners, individuals high in the sincere style report more
success, more confidence, and a greater likelihood of establishing of relationship
potential. Once in a relationship, the sincere flirting style is positively related to
386 J. A. Hall et al.
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having a strong emotional connection, sexual chemistry, and an important and
meaningful relationship, and negatively related to a slow-paced development of the
relationship. The sincere style is more likely to be advocated by women than men,
but is highly advocated by participants.
The sincere flirting style is correlated with extraversion, agreeableness, conscien-
tiousness, and openness, and negatively related to neuroticism. The sincere style is
positively related to a self-monitoring actor, but negatively related to a self-
monitoring other. The sincere flirting style is correlated with a lack of willingness
to change for the purposes of other people or contexts, although it reflects an ability
to act. Finally, the sincere flirting style is unrelated to the playful and traditional
flirting styles, but positively related to the polite and physical style.
The Playful Flirting Style
The playful flirting style is a fun, self-esteem enhancing style of flirting. The playful
flirt is likely to flirt with people they have no long-term romantic interest. Those high
in the playful style are more likely to report romantic interest in others, to flirt with
potential partners, to believe flirting is flattering, and that members of the opposite
sex flirt everywhere they go. When communicating with a potential partner, playful
flirts report more success and self-confidence, but do not establish relationship
potential. Once in a relationship, the playful flirting style is negatively related to
having an important and meaningful relationship.
This style is the only style where men scored higher than women. Men, but not
women, who are high in the playful style are more likely to mistakenly report
that others believe they are flirting, and report less difficulty getting others to notice
when they are flirting. For men, the playful flirting style is marked by the swift
development of a relatively unimportant relationship with high sexual chemistry.
For both men and women, the playful flirting style is positively related to extraver-
sion, but negatively related to conscientiousness, reflecting the outgoing nature,
but with a lack of concern for others. For women, but not men, the playful style
is negatively related to agreeableness and positively related to openness. In
addition, the playful style is related to behaviors of the classic high self-monitor
who is able to put on a good social performance for the benefit of others. The
playful flirting style is positively related to the physical style and negatively related
to the polite style.
The Polite Flirting Style
This style reflects a cautious and rule-governed approach to courtship. Proper man-
ners, nonsexual communication, and less forward behaviors are typically used during
courtship. Those high on the polite style report interest in fewer potential partners
and, when interested, women are less likely to approach that person and less likely
to find flirting flattering. The most recent relationship of those who are high in
the polite flirting style was important and meaningful.
Communication Quarterly 387
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Overall, the polite style is consistent with being a low self-monitor, who is
conscientious and agreeable. Men are less likely to have a polite style. This style is
positively related to the sincere flirting style and negatively related to the playful
flirting style, meaning individuals with this style are more likely to seek an emotional
and sincere connection and less likely to be playful.
Limitations and Strengths
The limitations of the development of the flirting styles inventory include a reliance
on cross-sectional and self-report data, use of a motivated dating sample, a restriction
in range of item responses, and the lack of correlation with love styles and love ways
research (Hendrick & Hendrick, 1986; Marston & Hecht, 1994). The cross-sectional
nature of this sample creates restrictions in drawing conclusions about these styles.
These data cannot be used to predict change in behavior over time. Furthermore,
these data are at risk of similar problems with self-report data, including respondent
bias and inability to accurately report behaviors. These problems are not unique to
this study, and may be overcome by future observational and longitudinal research.
The primary sample, although large and diverse in age, were recruited from a
for-profit Internet dating service. These respondents may differ from those who
are either in established relationships, not interested in establishing a relationship,
or interested in short-term mating.
The restriction of range of responses to the sincere flirting style and, to a lesser
degree, the polite style is another limitation. The sincere style items passed skewness
tests but still demonstrated a positive bias, wherein most respondents agreed that
establishing an emotional connection and showing sincere interest was the primary
style of flirting. These problems may be remedied by exploring the sincere flirting
style with a sample of more casual daters looking for short-term relationships.
Nonetheless, the lack of range of responses limits the discriminate validity of this
particular style.
Finally, this investigation did not consider prior research on love styles (Hendrick
& Hendrick, 1986) and love ways (Marston & Hecht, 1994). The flirting
styles inventory is concerned with the expression of romantic interest, rather
than love. The communication of interest and love are distinct emotional and
psychological constructs, especially in terms of relationship length, the depth and
breadth of interpersonal communication, and the intensity of the emotion expressed.
However, conceptual linkages exist between the playful and physical styles and
the ludic and erotic love styles (Hendrick & Hendrick, 1986), and merit greater
consideration.
The strengths of this research include the development of a new scale with reliable
and valid dimensions, and the use of a diverse and large sample. The sample size
(N ¼ 5,020) is advantageous because it allowed the scale to undergo EFAs and CFAs.
The relations between the styles and the predictive measures cannot be attributed to
a small sample size. The demographic characteristics of this sample also offer
certain benefits. These respondents are the ideal group to test a relationship initiation
388 J. A. Hall et al.
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instrument because they are in the process of establishing a relationship and are,
therefore, able to draw on recent experience, which increases ecological validity.
Finally, the origin of this sample should be highlighted in that it does not come
from a convenience sample of college students. Older age groups are largely neglected
in studies about courtship, and the reliance on college samples may lead to non-
generalizable conclusions about the process of courtship for older adults.
Future research may attempt to identify contexts and motivations that are
germane to each flirting style. For example, would individuals high in playful
or physical styles be more likely to frequent clubs and bars and seek short-term
relationships, whereas traditional or polite flirts are more likely to find dating
partners through friends or work colleagues? Other possible directions for future
research would explore whether complementary styles or similarity in styles between
partners in courtship could lead to more positive relational outcomes. Whereas
complementary partners may find more success if a person seeks out someone
who behaves in ways lacking in their own approach, similar partners may have the
advantages of communicating interest in ways that are comfortable and
well-understood by both partners.
Notes
[1] Flirting can be narrowly defined to only include behaviors that signal romantic or physical
interest in another person, or it can be more broadly defined to include behaviors that
mimic flirtatiousness but are intended to achieve other goals, such as making a third party
jealous. Henningsen (2004) separated these definitions by identifying the former as courtship
initiating and the latter as quasi-courtship. This manuscript is concerned with different
styles of communicating romantic interest; therefore, courtship, rather than quasi-courtship,
is relevant.
[2] Deviations from this norm for women can either put women at risk of making a negative
impression (e.g., being seen as too desperate or too willing), and deviations for men are
unlikely to lead to courtship initiation (e.g., women are unlikely to approach men who
are unwilling to take a more proactive role).
[3] The sociosexuality construct, developed by Gangestad and Simpson (1990), measures the
degree to which individuals require closeness and commitment prior to engaging in sex.
The physical flirting style does not measure attitudes toward sex but, instead, individuals’
willingness and ability to convey sexual interest to a potential partner.
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... Researchers found that being the target of a flirt can be perceived as flattery and interest in the own person, which, consequently, can be associated with positive emotions and a confidence boost, even in a computer-mediated setting (Hall, 1993;Cialdini, 2009;Tanner and Tabo, 2018). It is likely that this boost of confidence is associated with the fact that flirting also represents a sign of genuine interest in another person (Hall et al., 2010). ...
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... April is the cruellest month, breeding Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing Memory and desire, stirring Dull roots with spring rain. (Elliot 1922) In the inevitability of momentary presence, idea behaviour is defined by a molar (Hall et al. 2010) mentality, as the overall style in which brands communicate, not the specific molecular expression. This choreography of brand style opens up a consistent mentality in the occasioning of episodic intimacy. ...
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... Each of these activities offers the opportunity for occupational therapists to address dating competence and future research should be directed towards developing interventions to enhance the individual's capacity to engage in dating activities. Hall et al. (2010) suggest that specific dating behaviours are informed by culture and context. Our study findings relating to what people 'do' when dating confirm this research. ...
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