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The present investigation identifies the nonverbal and verbal behaviors associated with the five flirting styles (i.e., physical, traditional, sincere, polite, playful) (Hall et al. in Commun Q 58:365–393, 2010). Fifty-one pairs (N = 102) of opposite-sex heterosexual strangers interacted for 10–12 min and then reported their physical attraction to their conversational partner. Four independent coders coded 36 nonverbal and verbal behaviors. The residual variance of the interaction term between each flirting style and physical attraction was calculated, accounting for variance associated with the other styles. These five residual terms were separately correlated with the coded verbal and nonverbal behaviors. Each flirting style was correlated with behaviors linked to the conceptualization of that style: more conversational fluency for physical flirts, more demure behaviors for traditional female flirts and more assertive and open behaviors by traditional male flirts, less fidgeting, teasing, and distraction and more smiling for sincere flirts, more reserved and distancing behavior by polite flirts, and more obviously engaging and flirtatious behaviors by playful flirts.
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Journal of Nonverbal Behavior
ISSN 0191-5886
Volume 39
Number 1
J Nonverbal Behav (2015) 39:41-68
DOI 10.1007/s10919-014-0199-8
The Verbal and Nonverbal Correlates of the
Five Flirting Styles
Jeffrey A.Hall & Chong Xing
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ORIGINAL PAPER
The Verbal and Nonverbal Correlates of the Five Flirting
Styles
Jeffrey A. Hall Chong Xing
Published online: 28 September 2014
ÓSpringer Science+Business Media New York 2014
Abstract The present investigation identifies the nonverbal and verbal behaviors asso-
ciated with the five flirting styles (i.e., physical, traditional, sincere, polite, playful) (Hall
et al. in Commun Q 58:365–393, 2010). Fifty-one pairs (N=102) of opposite-sex het-
erosexual strangers interacted for 10–12 min and then reported their physical attraction to
their conversational partner. Four independent coders coded 36 nonverbal and verbal
behaviors. The residual variance of the interaction term between each flirting style and
physical attraction was calculated, accounting for variance associated with the other styles.
These five residual terms were separately correlated with the coded verbal and nonverbal
behaviors. Each flirting style was correlated with behaviors linked to the conceptualization
of that style: more conversational fluency for physical flirts, more demure behaviors for
traditional female flirts and more assertive and open behaviors by traditional male flirts,
less fidgeting, teasing, and distraction and more smiling for sincere flirts, more reserved
and distancing behavior by polite flirts, and more obviously engaging and flirtatious
behaviors by playful flirts.
Keywords Courtship Flirting styles Nonverbal behavior Physical attraction
Introduction
Sociobiological accounts of courtship initiation acknowledge that a variety of courtship
initiation strategies exist, including self-promotion and competitor derogation (Schmitt
A previous version of this manuscript was presented in November 2013 at the National Communication
Association conference in Washington, DC.
J. A. Hall (&)C. Xing
Communication Studies Department, University of Kansas, Bailey Hall, 1440 Jayhawk Blvd., Rm 102,
Lawrence, KS 66045-7574, USA
e-mail: hallj@ku.edu
C. Xing
e-mail: cxing@ku.edu
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DOI 10.1007/s10919-014-0199-8
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2005). Several attempts (e.g., Clark et al. 1999; Fisher and Cox 2011) have been made to
extend the range of possible courtship initiation strategies to better account for the wide
variety of possible tactics. The myriad of courtship initiation behaviors and tactics suggest
that behaviors that can be called flirting are not solely the result of evolutionary forces, but
also depend upon relational (O’Farrell et al. 2003), socio-sexual (Penke and Asendorpf
2008), cultural (Grammer et al. 1999), and contextual factors (Henningsen 2004). That is,
no single courtship initiation behavior or strategy is appropriate, efficacious, or likely to be
manifested in all individuals or across all contexts (Trost and Alberts 2006).
Hall et al. (2010) created the flirting styles inventory (FSI) to introduce a new way to
measure individual differences in courtship initiation. Drawing from past typologies of
courtship tactics (e.g., Clark et al. 1999) and flirting goals (Henningsen 2004), the flirting
styles perspective maintains that there are five distinct ways to communicate attraction:
physical, traditional, sincere, polite, and playful. Each of the five styles represents a unique
dispositional manner of conveying romantic interest. Hall et al. (2010) reported correla-
tions between the FSI and courtship initiation behaviors, long-term relationship experi-
ences, personality traits, and demographics. Absent from the original article was evidence
of observed behavioral manifestations of each style. Acknowledging the importance of
verbal (Clark et al. 1999) and nonverbal behavior (Moore 2010) in courtship, the present
manuscript will link the five flirting styles with verbal and nonverbal behaviors associated
with physical attraction.
The present manuscript will show that each flirting style has a behavioral profile
manifested during a zero-acquaintance interaction between single, opposite-sex hetero-
sexual strangers. Illustrating the benefit of exploring how individual differences influence
courtship initiation behaviors, past research has explored the relationship between non-
verbal behavior and socio-sexuality, or the degree to which individuals are comfortable in
engaging in sex outside the context of a relationship (Penke and Asendorpf 2008; Simpson
et al. 1993), and attachment style (Brumbaugh and Fraley 2010). However, no study to date
has matched the five flirting styles with observed verbal and nonverbal behaviors. The
present investigation demonstrates that when individuals are physically attracted to an
opposite sex conversational partner, each flirting style has a distinct behavioral profile that
appears to correspond with the conceptual definition of the style. This not only demon-
strates that there are a variety of ways that individuals show attraction (Fisher and Cox
2011), but also that the FSI offers an ecologically valid way to categorize and interpret that
variation. The present investigation contributes to research on courtship initiation in three
ways: it offers behavioral confirmation of a self-report measure of flirting (i.e., the FSI); it
develops a multidimensional perspective of how courtship is initiated and attraction
communicated; and it contributes to research on the nonverbal correlates of physical
attraction.
Courtship Initiation
There is a long history of studying the nonverbal and verbal behaviors associated with
courtship initiation (see Moore 2010 for review). Birdwhistell (1970) and Morris (1971)
documented the sequence of behaviors from initial contact between strangers through
sexual intimacy. Givens (1978) identified five stages of courtship from attention and
recognition to interaction and sexual arousal. The earliest stages of courtship for both
Morris and Givens were approach signals that if successfully decoded and acted upon led
to interaction (see also Perper 1985). Behaviors that occur during Givens’ interaction stage
have been explored both in naturalistic settings (Moore 1985; Perper 1985) and in
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laboratory settings (Grammer 1990; Simpson et al. 1993). There is a history of studying the
degree of flirtatiousness, seductiveness, and promiscuousness in zero-acquaintance set-
tings, wherein opposite-sex strangers are introduced in a laboratory setting and their
behaviors recorded (e.g., Abbey 1982; Shotland and Craig 1988). The present investigation
follows in this line of research on courtship initiation.
Nonverbal Behaviors, Attraction, and Romantic Interest
The most dominant approach to the observational study of courtship initiation is the
identification of specific nonverbal behaviors associated with flirting. Scores of nonverbal
behaviors have been found to be associated with physical attraction, flirting, and openness
to courtship (Koeppel et al. 1993; Moore 2010). In fact, lists generated by study partici-
pants named over 100 nonverbal behaviors thought to be indicative of romantic interest
(Clore et al. 1975; Fichten et al. 1992). Due to the focus of past research on observers’
perceptions of targets’ level of flirting, seduction, and promiscuity, many early studies of
nonverbal courtship initiation behavior (e.g., Abbey and Melby 1986) did not link
behaviors to ecologically valid outcomes (i.e., being approached by a potential mate; actual
interest felt by the targets), but instead relied upon actors or confederates to portray these
behaviors.
By comparison, Moore (1985) and Moore and Butler (1989) research linked females’
nonverbal behaviors in public settings to courtship outcomes, specifically the approach of
males. Similar to participant-generated lists, observational research suggests that there is a
wide range of possible nonverbal displays that females might show to signal openness to
males’ approach. For example, Moore (1985) identified 52 nonverbal cues. Moore (1985)
also documented large variation in the frequency of these displays, from very frequent
(e.g., smiling) to quite rare (e.g., touch the other person’s body). In a small observational
study (N=20), Moore and Butler (1989) were able to predict with 90 % accuracy whether
a man would approach a woman based on her nonverbal behavior. More recent studies
have also linked nonverbal behaviors to opposite-sex stranger approach (Gueguen 2008;
Renninger et al. 2004).
Although several early studies (e.g., Abbey 1982; Shotland and Craig 1988) used
participants engaged in non-staged interactions, more recent investigations have used the
zero-acquaintance paradigm to explore courtship initiation and nonverbal behavior. Spe-
cifically, discrete nonverbal behaviors have been associated with romantic interest self-
reported after the interaction (Grammer et al. 1999,2000). From an initially coded group of
88 nonverbal behaviors, Grammer et al. (2000) identified four behaviors enacted by
females that were most strongly related to females’ reported romantic interest in their male
conversational partners.
One other noteworthy approach to the study of nonverbal behavior and attraction has
investigated whether individual differences among participants in socio-sexual orientation
(SOI), or openness to sex outside of a committed relationship, is associated with nonverbal
behavior during zero-acquaintance interactions (Penke and Asendorpf 2008; Simpson et al.
1993). Similar to studies of personality in zero-acquaintance interactions, this approach
suggests that underlying traits of individuals are manifested in verbal and nonverbal
behaviors during a first meeting with an opposite-sex conversation partner (i.e., a potential
mate). Specifically, individuals who are more open to casual sex are likely to act in ways
that signal their availability (Penke and Asendorpf 2008; Simpson et al. 1993). This line of
inquiry has identified several gender-specific cues related to males’ and females’ under-
lying SOI (Penke and Asendorpf 2008), and found that these behaviors are similar to those
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perceived to be related to romantic interest (Shotland and Craig 1988) and openness to
approach by males (Moore 1985). This suggests that behaviors associated with attraction
and perceived to be indicative of romantic interest may be a combination of both under-
lying traits of the individual and felt romantic or sexual desire.
Flirting Styles
The flirting styles approach to courtship initiation follows from the communicator style
tradition (Norton 1983). Noting that a communicator’s style is principally concerned with
conveying the relational meaning of a message, the FSI was developed to introduce a valid
and reliable way to measure individual differences in the communication of romantic interest
(Hall et al. 2010). To theoretically ground this approach, past research on courtship tactics,
goals, beliefs, strategies, and behaviors were reviewed. From this review, a typology of five
courtship initiation styles, called flirting styles, were proposed and defined. Following in the
communicator style tradition (Norton 1983), the flirting styles were conceived as being more
similar to a trait rather than state characteristic. Hall et al. (2010) proposed that the styles
would influence the contexts where individuals sought relationships and the particular
nonverbal behaviors they would enact during courtship initiation, and independent research
has confirmed that style is associated with flirting behaviors in context (McBain et al. 2013).
To measure the styles, representative items were created and exploratory and confirmatory
factor analyses were performed using a large sample of eHarmony daters (N=5,020). These
analyses resulted in a 26-item measure that showed adequate reliability, and subsequent
analyses demonstrated predictive and construct validity.
The five flirting styles are physical, traditional, sincere, polite, and playful. The physical
flirting style measures the degree to which individuals are comfortable and confident when
expressing their romantic interest in a potential partner using their physicality. Individuals
high on the physical style are able to detect the romantic interest of others and are capable
of clearly conveying their own interest. Those high in the traditional style believe that men
should make the first move and women should not pursue men during courtship. Those low
in the traditional style believe that it does not matter who initiates a relationship; they are
less constrained by gender role scripts in courtship (Eaton and Rose 2011). Those who are
high on the sincere flirting style convey romantic attraction through emotional connection
and showing sincere interest in potential partners, which is a common and preferred tactic
for initiating a romantic relationship (Clark et al. 1999). The polite style reflects a cautious
and rule-governed approach to courtship. Proper manners, non-sexual communication, and
less forward behaviors are privileged because they are felt to be more desirable and
appropriate ways to communicate attraction by polite flirts. Respect for the potential
partner is privileged and direct and assertive tactics are eschewed (Hall 2013; McBain et al.
2013). Finally, the playful flirting style is a fun, self-esteem enhancing style of flirting.
Those high in the playful style flirt for instrumental motivations (Henningsen 2004) and
use flirting as a means to attain personal, non-relational goals (Hall 2013). In the original
study (Hall et al. 2010), the correlations between the flirting styles and Big Five personality
traits and the correlations between the flirting styles were small to moderate. Controlling
for the unique variance associated with both Big Five personality and the other four flirting
styles, each flirting style is uniquely associated with courtship initiation behaviors and
dating and relationship outcomes that were consistent with the conceptualization of each
style (Hall 2013). Flirting style also appears to correspond with flirting behaviors across
contexts (McBain et al. 2013). Individuals high on each style use similar behavioral tactics
across a variety of contexts.
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The Nonverbal Flirting Styles Approach
The flirting styles approach to courtship initiation offers a different way to interpret the
wide variety of nonverbal behaviors that individuals associate with interest in courtship
(Clore et al. 1975) and observed in public settings (Moore 1985). Specifically, the flirting
styles approach asserts that all individuals do not communicate attraction in the same way,
which is consistent with work on courtship tactics (e.g., Clark et al. 1999; Fisher and Cox
2011) and flirting goals (Henningsen 2004). The five flirting styles were conceptualized to
account for individual differences in the communication of attraction, and are thus well
suited to understand variability in the communication of attraction. By contrast, although
nonverbal displays of romantic interest are not uniform across cultures (Grammer et al.
1999), the presumption that attraction is communicated in the same way across individuals
is widespread among both lay audiences and courtship initiation researchers (Hall 2013).
Most nonverbal research on courtship initiation has sought to identify the true solicitation
signals across individuals rather than explore the variety of ways that individuals com-
municate, engender, or perceive attraction. The present investigation operates from the
following assumption: rather than overarching similarity among individuals, we should
assume variety and difference between individuals in the communication of physical
attraction felt toward a conversational partner.
The purpose of the present investigation is to explore whether the five flirting styles is a
typology that can distinguish patterns underlying the variety of verbal and nonverbal
indicators of physical attraction. It is anticipated that each flirting style uniquely affects the
way that attraction is behaviorally manifested in a zero-acquaintance heterosexual oppo-
site-sex interaction. Because this investigation is the first to attempt to document in non-
verbal correlates with the newly constructed FSI, this project will seek to document the
unique and shared behavioral correlates of each flirting style from 36 coded behaviors
associated with attraction and courtship initiation in past research (Moore 2010).
Methods
Procedure and Instrumentation
Participants
Participants were 51 pairs of single (i.e., not in a committed romantic relationship or a
‘serious dating’’ relationship), heterosexual (i.e., by self-report) students recruited from
introductory communication courses at a large Midwestern university. Participants
received partial class credit for participating in the study worth \.5 % of their final grade.
Procedures were IRB approved. Participants were primarily white (78 %), and other races/
ethnicities were represented: 7 % Asian-American, 7 % Hispanic/Latino, 6 % African-
American, 2 % Native-American. Participants’ mean age was 19.2 years (SD =2.1, range
18–30; mode =19).
Pre-interaction Questionnaire
Participants completed the online questionnaire to determine their eligibility to participate
(i.e., heterosexual and single were inclusion criteria) between 3 days and 2 weeks before
arriving at the lab. Flirting styles were measured using Hall et al. (2010) original 26-item
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measure on a 7-point Likert-type scale. Reliabilities for all five styles were found to be
adequate and approximated those reported in Hall et al. (2010): physical (a=.84), tra-
ditional (a=.80), sincere (a=.70), polite (a=.77), and playful (a=.71).
Interaction Procedure
One male and one female participant were scheduled to arrive at the interaction lab for the
same 20-min time period. Upon arrival at the dyadic interaction lab, participants were led
to separate rooms and gave written consent to be audio and video recorded. Once both
participants had arrived and had consented, participants brought to the same room and
introduced. The interaction lab had two chairs facing one another at a distance of
approximately three feet and a small adjacent side table. Two digital, wall-mounted
cameras were mounted above each participant to record interactions—each camera
recording one participant. Two wireless microphones were placed on the chair arms to
capture audio feed. The microphones and cameras were connected to a password-protected
computer in the control room next door where videos were streamed, recorded, and stored.
After being introduced, the participants were read study instructions. They were told the
purpose of the study was to ‘‘better understand how people form first impressions,’’ and
that they would be interacting for about 10 min. To help facilitate and standardize the
conversation, a set of pre-screened question cards was placed on the table in the interaction
lab. Study authors selected these questions because they were interesting conversation
starters. Each participant was asked to choose five of the ten cards, and to take turns asking
each other questions. Participants were instructed that the goal of the interaction was to
have a conversation, so they did not need to ask all the questions on the cards. They were
encouraged to go on tangents and ask their own questions. Finally, participants were asked
to keep talking until the researcher returned.
Post-interaction Procedure
After at least 10 min but no more than 12 min had passed, participants were interrupted by
the researcher and put in separate rooms. Without consulting each other, both completed a
post-interaction questionnaire. All participants reported their physical attraction to their
conversation partner along with other measures not included in the present study. Physical
attraction was measured on a 5-item 7-point Likert scale (McCroskey and McCain 1974),
and was reliable (a=.90). Participants were asked if they had met their interaction partner
previously and none indicated that they had.
Nonverbal Behavior Coding
There was a separate video and audio recording for each study participant. Each recording
was coded on a minute-by-minute basis by four independent coders for the presence or rate
of 38 nonverbal and verbal cues. These nonverbal behaviors met three criteria: (1) were
found to be related to the communication of attraction or romantic interest in prior
research, (2) showed sufficient reliability in prior research, and (3) would be visible or
observable during a seated interaction (‘Appendix’).
Coders were trained individually and as a group for 15 h by coding videos from pilot
data to standardize the use of the codebook. Codebooks included examples of behaviors to
increase reliability. After training, coders independently coded the videos. Reliability was
calculated using Hayes and Krippendorff’s (2007) alpha MACRO. To ensure adequate
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inter-rater reliability ([.60), the reliability between coders was checked after each 20
recordings. If reliability was inadequate, coders were brought together to discuss coding
procedures to norm codebook interpretation. Three codes were dropped for failing to reach
adequate reliability, leaving 35 codes.
Behavioral Factors
To reduce the number of coded behaviors to a more manageable number and decrease
problems arising from multicolinearity during regression analyses, an exploratory factor
analysis (EFA) was conducted using promax rotation and principle axis factoring (see
Penke and Asendorpf 2008 for similar procedure). The EFA procedures were repeated for
male and female participants separately, and a very similar factor structure arose for both
groups. The results suggested the combination of sets of cues into eight factors: self-touch
(i.e., body touch, hair touch, touch face); affirmation (i.e., nodding, saying yes); joyful (i.e.,
smile, laughter); expressive (i.e., expressiveness of face, expressive gesticulation); lips
(i.e., bite lips or lick lips, put objects or hands in mouth); disclosure (i.e., depth of self-
disclosure, amount of talk); play objects (i.e., adjust clothes, adjust artifacts); and flirtatious
gaze (i.e., flirtatious gaze, coy gaze). All other coded behaviors failed to load on the above
factors, and did not form meaningful factors in any combination. Twenty-six behavioral
codes were included in the final analysis (i.e., eight factors, 18 individual behaviors) (see
Table 1).
Orthogonalized Dependent Variables
Past investigations of flirting have identified behavioral correlates of self-reported romantic
interest (e.g., Grammer et al. 2000) and behaviors associated with individual differences in
openness to casual sex (e.g., Simpson et al. 1993). To capture the unique behavioral
correlates of each flirting style, we sought to combine these perspectives by exploring
physical attraction and the underlying trait simultaneously. The dependent variables in the
present study were represented by an interaction between each flirting style and self-
reported physical attraction. However, the flirting styles weakly to moderately correlate
(Hall et al. 2010). When interaction terms represent the dependent variable of interest and
the effects of other independent variables must be controlled for, partial correlations
represent a solution to accounting for covariance. Dependent variables that have been
orthogonalized provide a similar and improved solution (Little et al. 2006). The variance of
each orthogonalized interaction term ‘‘contains the unique variance that fully represents the
interaction effect’’—in this case, each flirting style and physical attraction—removing the
variance associated with the other four flirting styles (Little et al. 2006, p. 500). The
orthogonalized variables become new variables created to hold constant the effects of the
other four flirting styles on each style-by-attraction interaction term.
Five orthogonalized interaction residual terms were calculated using the following
procedure. First, five interaction products were created (i.e., flirting style by physical
attraction). Second, an orthogonalization procedure was applied to the five products to
obtain the residual variance of each interaction term. Specifically, five multiple regressions
were performed and the residual variance of each regression was saved. This analysis
partitioned the interaction terms’ variance into two parts: (1) the variance explained/shared
by the other four flirting styles, and (2) the residual variance containing the error variance
and the unique information of the interaction term not explained by the other four flirting
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styles (Little et al. 2006). This residual variance is the unique interaction between each
flirting style and physical attraction, accounting for the other four flirting styles. Therefore,
the verbal and nonverbal behaviors correlated with each of these orthogonalized flirting
style terms cannot be attributed to the other four flirting styles.
Table 1 Descriptive statistics for physical attraction, flirting styles, and behavioral indicators
Variables Scale MSDa
Physical attraction 7-Pt 4.72 1.13 .90
Flirting styles
Physical 7-Pt 4.26 1.21 .84
Traditional 7-Pt 3.98 1.13 .80
Sincere 7-Pt 5.83 .68 .70
Polite 7-Pt 4.88 .88 .77
Playful 7-Pt 4.52 1.05 .71
Behavioral indicators
Affirmation (nod, yes) Count/min 4.97 2.43 .66
Arms (open vs. crossed) 5-Pt 3.51 1.08 .61
Ask questions Count/min 1.20 .92 .62
Breast present Count/min .57 1.57 .75
Compliments Count/min .06 .18 .75
Conversational fluency 5-Pt 3.94 1.07 .63
Disclosure (depth, amount) 5-Pt 3.29 .42 .69
Expressive (hands, face) 5-Pt 2.92 1.91 .59
Fall in chair Count/min .08 .20 .74
Flirtatious glance Count/min .08 .19 .60
Gazing (direct vs. away) 5-Pt 2.91 1.19 .69
Joyful (smile, laugh) Count/min 5.18 2.25 .67
Leaning toward versus back 5-Pt 2.20 1.49 .87
Leg cross Count/min .20 .32 .62
Lips (bite, lick, hands in mouth) Count/min 1.38 1.05 .59
Move closer Count/min .37 .97 .69
Palming Count/min .12 .25 .71
Pitch (high vs. low) 5-Pt 2.65 1.55 .82
Play cards (constant vs. not) 5-Pt 2.48 1.40 .84
Play objects (artifacts, clothes) Count/min .64 1.21 .59
Self deprecating comment Count/min .46 1.04 .76
Self touch (hair, face, body) Count/min 2.59 1.92 .85
Shake head Count/min 1.00 1.44 .80
Shoulder shrug Count/min .13 .21 .77
Teasing Count/min .04 .09 .69
Vocal expression (animated vs. monotone) 5-Pt 2.74 1.06 .59
Behavioral measures reported as an average by minute. Cronbach’s alpha reported for survey items,
Krippendorff alpha for intercoder reliability. On 5-pt scales the first adjective is the high number (i.e., high
pitch =5, low =1)
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Minute Clusters and Sample Non-independence
Past research (Grammer et al. 1999,2000) on nonverbal behavior during initial interactions
found that behaviors associated with interest in courtship were time sensitive. When
averaged across all time periods, nonverbal behaviors associated with openness to court-
ship were obscured. Only when time intervals were separated were the associations sig-
nificant and interpretable. In the current analyses, verbal and nonverbal behaviors were
separated into four clusters of minutes: 1–3, 4–6, 7–9 and 10–12 min.
The nonverbal behaviors of dyads could not assumed to be independent because the
behavior of each participant within the dyad influenced the behavior of the other partici-
pant. In such circumstances, it is valuable to assess the degree of non-independence by
conducting inter-class correlations (ICCs) (Kenny et al. 2006). Kenny et al. recommend
that ICCs that exceed .30 should be re-analyzed using a dyadic method because the
assumption of non-independence has been violated. In this study, the ICCs for the
orthogonalized dependent measures approximated zero, which suggests that standard
statistical procedures could be employed. For the independent variables (i.e., verbal and
nonverbal behaviors), the average ICC was .199, and only five behavioral codes exceeded
an ICC of .30. Partial correlations are a recommended strategy for correcting for non-
independence in independent variables (Kenny et al. 2006).
The correlation results are presented by minute groupings on Tables 2,3,4,5,6and 7.
The first rows report verbal and nonverbal behaviors correlated with the dependent variable
that did not differ by participant sex. The following rows are correlations that appear only
for males or only for females. To account for non-independence and be conservative in
analyses, all correlations reported by sex were partial correlations controlling for the same
behavior in participants’ conversational partners. In the final right-hand columns of
Tables 2,3,4,5,6and 7, the results of backward regression analyses are reported. The
significant correlates identified in minute groupings were collapsed across the entire
interaction where direction and significance of behavioral correlations were similar. For
example, because compliments were negatively associated with the physical flirting style
across all 4 min groupings, the regression analyses collapsed compliments across the entire
time span (min 1–12). If minute groupings were considered as separate variables in the
regression equation, it would result in multi-collinearity.
Results
Behavioral Correlates of Flirting Styles
Physical
Individuals who were more physical flirts and physically attracted to their conversation
partner experienced greater conversation fluency for all of the time intervals save one, and
gave fewer compliments throughout the duration of the interaction. Females who were
physical flirts and attracted to their partner asked fewer questions of their conversational
partner and engaged in less self-touch throughout the interaction, particularly the final
minutes. Females who were physical flirts and attracted to their partner also palmed more
in minutes 4–9, and nodded and said yes more often in the first 3 min. In the last half of the
interaction, males who were more physical flirts and physically attracted to their
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Table 2 Associations between nonverbal indicators and physical flirting style by physical attraction (orthogonalized) interactions (N =102)
Behavioral indicators Spearman correlations (one-tailed; all participants) Backward regression
r
s
[Significant time intervals] B(SE)
sig
1–3 min 4–6 min 7–9 min 10–12 min
Breast present .00 .17* -.17* .02
Compliments -.26** -.09 -.12 -.23* [1–12] -10.19 (4.49)*
Convo. fluency .19* .10 .21* .27**
Move closer .02 -.07 .02 -.18*
Model R
2
=.08 (6.47)*
Female Partial correlations (one-tailed; controlling for male behaviors) Linear regressions
Affirmation .18* .04 .06 -.02 [1–3] 1.12 (.55)*
Asking questions -.12 -.43* -.12 -.19 [4–6] -3.37 (.98)**
Compliments -.26* -.18 -.12 -.06
Lean toward -.10 -.23
-.29* -.27*
Palming .16 .33* .32* .19 [4–9] 5.31 (2.61)*
Self-touch -.20 -.22
-.15 -.34** [10–12] -2.36 (1.08)*
Male Partial correlations (one-tailed; controlling for female behaviors) Linear regressions
Affirmation .08 -.02 .05 -.27*
Compliments -.21 .06 -.09 -.28* [10–12] -10.88 (5.49)
Convo. fluency .15 -.23
.15 .12
Flirt. glance .03 -.29* -.03 -.22 [4–6] -9.24 (4.19)*
Lean toward .29* .18 .12 .20
Palming .08 .02 -.02 .26*
Teasing -.12 -.15 -.21 -.26*
The only behavioral indicators reported are those significant at least one time period
p\.06; * p\.05; ** p\.01; *** p\.001
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conversation partner complimented their partner less often and glanced flirtatiously less
often during minutes 4–9 (Table 2).
Traditional
Individuals who were more traditional flirts and physically attracted to their conversation
partner were more likely to nod or say yes during the first 3 min, and more likely to palm in
the last 3 min. Females who were more traditional flirts and physically attracted to their
Table 3 Associations between nonverbal indicators and traditional flirting style by physical attraction
(orthogonalized) interactions (N =102)
Behavioral indicators Spearman correlations (one-tailed;
all participants)
Backward regression
r
s
[Significant
time intervals]
B(SE)
sig
1–3 min 4–6 min 7–9 min 10–12 min
Affirmation .22* .13 .08 -.01 [1–3] 2.75 (1.35)*
Compliments .15 .05 -.04 -.22*
Expressive .07 .10 .13 .22*
Gazing .19* .15 .05 .06
Palming .14 .21* .16 .21* [10–12] 6.15 (2.90)*
Shake head .07 .19* .29** .004
Model R
2
=.15 (6.5)**
Female Partial correlations (one-tailed; controlling
for male behaviors)
Linear regressions
Disclosure -.09 .05 .03 .30*
Lips -.06 -.23
-.07 -.20
Move closer -.32* -.22 .00 .00
Palming .13 .31* .22 .36** [1–12] 8.70 (3.23)**
Shrug -.27* -.27* .02 -.13
Teasing .47*** .11 -.02 .15 [1–3] 21.05 (4.78)***
Male Partial correlations (one tailed; controlling
for female behaviors)
Linear regressions
Arm cross -.22 -.20 -.20 -.26*
Expressive .06 .10 .25* .22
Gazing .22 .25* .19 .08
Lean toward .33* .25* .30* .39** [1–12] 1.50 (.70)*
Leg cross -.32* -.22 -.27* -.17 [1–9] -5.29 (2.30)*
Pitch .29* .27* .11 .07 [1–6] 4.19 (2.02)*
Shake head .26* .34** .37** .17 [4–9] 4.87 (1.81)**
Shrug .05 .27* -.16 -.06
Convo. fluency .28* -.12 .15 .06
The only behavioral indicators reported are those significant at least one time period
p\.06; * p\.05; ** p\.01; *** p\.001
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Table 4 Associations between nonverbal indicators and sincere flirting style by physical attraction (orthogonalized) interactions (N =102)
Behavioral indicators Spearman correlations (one-tailed; all participants) Backward regression
r
s
[Significant time intervals] B(SE)
sig
1–3 min 4–6 min 7–9 min 10–12 min
Ask questions -.14 -.18* -.06 -.09
Flirt. glance .21* .12 .17* .13 [1–3] 10.64 (3.16)**
Palming .10 .28* .02 .18*
Self-touch -.27* -.15 -.23** -.26** [1–12] -4.41 (1.20)***
Teasing .07 -.05 .03 -.23* [10–12] -34.41 (9.68)**
Model R
2
=.28 (6.44)***
Female Partial correlations (one-tailed; controlling for male behaviors) Linear regressions
Compliments .09 .04 -.24
.07
Flirt. glance .32* .16 .18 .23
[1–12] 12.01 (4.26)**
Joyful .08 .15 .27* .25* [7–9] 1.61 (.72)*
Palming .004 .31* .19 .27* [4–12] 5.44 (2.41)*
Pitch -.25* -.19 -.09 .01
Self-touch -.26* .001 -.09 -.17
Verbal fluency .29* -.14 -.07 -.20
Male Partial correlations (one-tailed; controlling for female behaviors) Linear regressions
Arm cross -.05 -.28* -.30* -.34* [4–9] -4.07 (1.89)*
Flirt. glance .35** .17 .18 .06
Gazing .26* .19 .23
.07
Joyful .20 .25* .11 .06
Lean toward .25* .19 .30* .41** [10–12] 1.46 (.69)*
Leg cross -.33* -.04 -.11 .003 [1–3] -5.94 (2.47)*
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Table 4 continued
Male Partial correlations (one-tailed; controlling for female behaviors) Linear regressions
Pitch .37** .33* .30* .26* [1–12] 5.39 (2.26)*
Play w/cards .23
.13 .19 .24
Self-touch -.42** -.27* -.37** -.41** [1–12] -6.19 (1.99)**
Teasing -.16 -.14 -.14 -.39** [10–12] -34.21 (12.02)**
Convo. fluency .28* -.05 .18 .01
The only behavioral indicators reported are those significant at least one time period
p\.06; * p\.05; ** p\.01; *** p\.001
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Table 5 Associations between nonverbal indicators and polite flirting style by physical attraction (orthogonalized) interactions (N =102)
Behavioral indicators Spearman correlations (one-tailed) Backward regression
r
s
[Significant time intervals] B(SE)
sig
1–3 min 4–6 min 7–9 min 10–12 min
Ask questions -.20* -.25** -.17* -.05
Fall in chair .22* .05 .07 .01
Play w/card .11 -.09 .22* .11
Play objects -.07 -.23** -.19* -.10
Self-touch -.22* -.20* -.24** -.32** [1–12] -2.46 (.87)**
Tease -.07 -.007 -.06 -.23*
Model R
2
=.41 (4.77)**
Female Partial correlations (one-tailed; controlling for male behaviors) Linear regressions
Ask questions -.32* -.51*** -.22 -.18 [1–6] -3.35 (.77)***
Self-touch -.26* -.11 -.18 -.44**
Male Partial correlations (one tailed; controlling for female behaviors) Linear regressions
Affirmation .21 .30* .13 -.03 [4–6] 1.04 (.49)*
Ask questions -.26* -.20 -.05 .05
Leg cross -.29* -.11 -.14 -.03
Move toward -.23
-.34* .00 .00 [4–6] -11.91 (5.02)*
Pitch -.23* -.21* -.23* -.22* [1–12] -1.63 (.74)*
Self-touch -.28* -.25* -.26* -.33*
Teasing -.19 -.16 -.20 -.38* [10–12] -25.47 (9.19)**
Convo. fluency .17 -.04 .25* -.09
The only behavioral indicators reported are those significant at least one time period
p\.06; * p\.05; ** p\.01; *** p\.001
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conversation partner were more likely to palm for the duration of the interaction, and more
likely to tease in the first 3 min of the interaction. Males who were more traditional flirts
and physically attracted to their conversation partner were more likely to lean toward their
partner during the entire interaction, and have a higher pitch for the first half of the
Table 6 Associations between nonverbal indicators and playful flirting style by physical attraction
(orthogonalized) interactions (N =102)
Behavioral indicators Spearman correlations (one-tailed; all
participants)
Backward regression
r
s
[Significant time
intervals]
B(SE)
sig
1–3 min 4–6 min 7–9 min 10–12 min
Ask questions -.19* -.24** -.20* -.10
Breast present .00 .16 .17* -.08 [7–9] 32.88 (14.61)*
Compliments .24** -.003 .01 -.07 [1–3] 8.96 (3.76) *
Leg cross -.09 -.17* -.15 -.09
Move toward -.11 -.10 -.05 -.17*
Pitch .17* .17* .19* .14
Self-touch -.17* -.11 -.14 -.14 [1–3] -3.09 (1.47)*
Tease -.04 -.03 .04 -.21*
Model R
2
=.50 (4.68)**
Female Partial correlations (one-tailed; controlling for male behaviors) Linear regressions
Ask questions -.36** -.33* -.12 -.14 [1–6] -2.59 (1.11)*
Convo. fluency .31* .11 .11 -.08
Flirt. glance .19 .29* .08 .27* [4–6] 9.77 (3.61)**
Lips -.03 .01 -.25* -.07
Move toward -.26* -.13 .00 .00
Play w/cards .14 .21 .29* .18
Shrug .10 .33* -.02 .00 [4–6] 10.00 (4.20)*
Male Partial correlations (one-tailed; controlling for female behaviors) Linear regressions
Arm cross -.28* -.30* -.18 -.33*
Ask questions -.18 -.24
-.19 .05
Compliments .33* -.01 .12 -.09 [1–3] 15.29 (6.20)*
Flirt. glance .24
.42** .34** .09
Lean toward .18 .06 .20 .28*
Leg cross -.34** -.15 -.20 -.06 [1–3] -4.83 (1.92)*
Move toward -.09 -.31* .00 .00
Disclosure -.16 -.28* -.04 -.10
Self-touch -.24* -.26* -.21 -.27*
Teasing -.16 -.23
-.11 -.37**
The only behavioral indicators reported are those significant at least one time period
p\.06; * p\.05; ** p\.01; *** p\.001
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interaction. Males who were more traditional flirts and physically attracted to their con-
versation partner crossed their legs less during most of the interaction (min 1–9), and shook
their heads more in the middle of the interaction (min 4–9) (Table 3).
Table 7 Associations between nonverbal indicators and physical attraction (N =102)
Nonverbal indicators Spearman correlations (one-tailed;
all participants)
Backward regressions
r
s
[Significant time
intervals]
B(SE)
sig
1–3 min 4–6 min 7–9 min 10–12 min
Affirmation .14 .20* .10 .02
Compliments .19* .18* -.01 -.03 [1–6] 3.94 (1.27)**
Flirt. glance .33** .12 .05 .16 [1–3] 1.61 (.61)*
Leg cross -.07 -.12 -.19* -.12
Palming .06 .21* -.03 .18*
Pitch .17* .15 .16
.13
Play w/cards .09 .06 .16
.15
Play w/objects -.10 -.23* -.23* -.01
Self-touch -.26** -.19* -.26** -.29** [1–12] -.59 (.18)**
Teasing .04 -.01 -.02 -.21* [10–12] -2.92 (1.08)*
Model R
2
=.81 (.64)***
Female Partial correlations (one-tailed; controlling for
male behaviors)
Linear regressions (R
2
)
Asking questions -.20 -.26* -.11 -.07
Compliment .11 .09 -.27* .06
Disclosure -.05 .05 .10 .25*
Joyful .03 .09 .26* .18 [7–12] .230 (.10)*
Palming -.01 .28* .13 .32* [4–12] 1.14 (.49)*
Shrug -.27* -.24* -.07 -.17
Male Partial correlations (one-tailed; controlling
for female behaviors)
Linear regressions
Arm cross -.13 -.31* -.24
-.32*
Affirmation .12 .28* .19 .002
Asking questions -.14 -.24* .02 .11
Compliments .28* .18 .14 .18 [1–3] 2.71 (1.27)*
Convo. fluency .31* -.11 .13 -.12
Gazing .23
.25* .30* .09 [7–9] .42 (.19)*
Leg cross -.37** -.12 -.22 -.05 [1–3] -1.04 (.38)**
Pitch .27* .25* .20 .19 [1–12] -.67 (.34)
Self-touch -.36** -.26* -.33* -.39** [1–12] -.76 (.29)*
Shake head .29* .25* .09 .17
Teasing -.20 -.15 -.15 -.39** [10–12] -5.48 (1.90)**
The only behavioral indicators reported are those significant at least one time period
p\.06; * p\.05; ** p\.01; *** p\.001
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Sincere
Individuals who were more sincere flirts and physically attracted to their conversation
partner were less likely to self-touch throughout the duration of the interaction, particularly
male participants. Individuals who were more sincere flirts and physically attracted to their
conversation partner also were less likely to tease their conversation partner in the last
3 min, particularly male participants. Females who were more sincere flirts and physically
attracted to their conversation partner were more likely to show more flirtatious gazes
throughout the duration of the interaction, and both males and females showed more
flirtatious gazes in the first 3 min. Females who were more sincere flirts and physically
attracted to their conversation partner engaged in more palming throughout most of the
entire interaction (min 4–12), and smiled and laughed more in the last half of the inter-
action. Males who were more sincere flirts and physically attracted to their conversation
partner had a higher pitched voice for the duration of the interaction. Finally, males who
were more sincere flirts and physically attracted to their conversation partner crossed their
arms (min 4–9) and legs (min 1–3) less during the interaction, and leaned toward their
conversational partner at the end of the interaction (Table 4).
Polite
Individuals who were more polite flirts and physically attracted to their conversation
partner were less likely to engage in self-touch for the duration of the interaction, and
had a lower pitched voice for the duration of the interaction. Individuals who were more
polite flirts and physically attracted to their conversation partner asked fewer question in
the first half of the interaction, particularly females. Males who were more polite flirts
and physically attracted to their conversation partner nodded and said yes more often in
the 4–6 min interval, and were less likely to move closer together in the same interval.
Finally, males who were more polite flirts and physically attracted to their conversation
partner teased their conversational partner less in the last minutes of the interaction
(Table 5).
Playful
Individuals who were more playful flirts and physically attracted to their conversation
partner were more likely to extend or protrude chest in minutes 7–9 and compliment their
partner more in the first 3 min, particularly males. Individuals who were more playful flirts
and physically attracted to their conversation partner were also less likely to self-touch in
the first 3 min. Females who were more playful flirts and physically attracted to their
conversation partner asked fewer questions in the first half of the interaction, had more
flirtatious gazes in the 4–6 min interval, and shrugged more often in minutes 4–6. Males
who were more playful flirts and physically attracted to their conversation partner crossed
their legs less in minutes 1–3 (Table 6).
Behavioral Correlates of Physical Attraction
Finally, the relationship between physical attraction and verbal and nonverbal behaviors
was explored independent of participants’ flirting styles to highlight the similarity between
the present investigation and past research. Individuals who were physically attracted to
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their conversational partner, regardless of flirting style, engaged in several behaviors. More
attracted individuals engaged in less self-touch for the duration of the interaction, and
offered more compliments in the first half of the interaction. These behaviors were more
strongly associated for males who were attracted to their female counterparts than for
females. More attracted individuals showed more flirtatious glances in the first 3 min.
Teasing in the last 3 min was negatively associated with attraction, particularly for males.
Females’ physical attraction to their male partners was associated with more smiling and
laughing in the second half of the interaction, and more palming for the duration of the
interaction. Males’ physical attraction to their female partners was associated with more
gazing the 7–9 min interval and less leg crossing in the early part of the interaction
(Table 7).
Discussion
The present investigation sought to identify verbal and nonverbal correlates of individuals
who scored high in each of the five flirting styles and were attracted to their opposite-sex
conversation partner, accounting for the variance attributable to the other four flirting
styles. Several behaviors were associated with each of the five styles, which suggests that
behaviors associated with flirting and attraction can be linked to individuals’ flirting style
during a short zero-acquaintance conversation. With the exception of the physical style,
most of the behavioral correlates of each flirting style appeared to be associated with the
conceptual definitions of the style as originally conceived (Hall et al. 2010). This suggests
that meaningful and distinct behavioral profiles may exist for each style, and that physical
attraction can be communicated in several different ways.
Behavioral Profiles of the Five Styles
The physical flirting style is associated with increased willingness to flirt, a greater ability
to get others to notice their flirting, greater flirting confidence, and an increased perception
that flirting is occurring in a conversation (Hall et al. 2010). Although not a predictor in the
regression model, the associations for both males and females suggest that when physical
flirts are more attracted to their partner, they show greater conversational fluency during
the interaction. Conversational competence and affinity seeking are critical components of
developing a romantic relationship (Dindia and Timmerman 2003).
For females, the physical flirting style and greater attraction to their partners was
associated with more palming in the middle of the interaction and less self-touch in the last
few minutes. Interestingly, females with a physical flirting style and greater attraction
asked fewer questions but nodded and smiled more in the first half of the interaction.
Although seemingly counter-indicative of showing attraction, these behaviors can be
interpreted through the sexual script (Eaton and Rose 2011) and the gain phenomena
(Clore et al. 1975). Both would suggest that females might be more successful in enacting
the traditional script by being more reserved in courtship interactions, and might be per-
ceived as more attractive if they act in a yielding or uninterested way, especially in the
early part of the interaction.
However, there were several behaviors associated with the physical style that were
conceptually inconsistent. Individuals high on the physical style and attracted to their
partner gave fewer compliments to the conversational partner for the duration of the
interaction, particularly male physical flirts. In addition, males who were physical flirts and
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attracted to their conversation partner showed fewer flirtatious glances in minutes 4–6.
Why would physical flirts compliment their partners less and gaze flirtatiously less fre-
quently? One possible explanation is that a zero-acquaintance activity is not consistent
with way that physical flirts typically seek partners (Hall 2013). Physical flirts are likely to
nonverbally flirt at bars and clubs (McBain et al. 2013) and the least likely to use friendship
as a mechanism for initiating a romantic relationship (Hall 2013). Perhaps in this particular
conversational context, physical flirts were less likely to communicate interest through
compliments.
The traditional style of flirting measures the degree to which the individual adheres to
and believes others should adhere to the sexual script during courtship: men should be the
aggressor and women should be more passive (Hall et al. 2010). Hall (2013) reported that
the traditional style shows more gender differences in attitudes and behavior than any other
style. The present investigation also found that most behaviors associated with a traditional
style were moderated by participant gender—shaking one’s head more often and more
palming during the last few minutes of the interaction were the only behavior correlated
with the traditional style and greater physical attraction for both males and females.
Traditional females who were physically attracted to their conversational partner were
more likely to engage in more palming for the duration of the interaction. One early study
on attraction (e.g., Scheflen 1965) associated palming by females with signaling invitation
for courtship. Given traditional female flirts’ tendency to adopt a more passive approach to
courtship initiation, it could be that they may signal availability in a subtle and demure
way. Interestingly, females with higher traditional flirting styles and who were attracted to
their conversation partners were also more likely to tease in the first 3 min of the inter-
action. Hall (2013) notes that when engaging in courtship banter, traditional flirts report
teasing more often and finding teasing more appealing. The present investigation offers
behavioral evidence of a similar phenomenon.
In contrast, traditional males who were physically attracted to their conversational
partner were more likely to lean toward their conversational partner for the duration of the
interaction—a behavior perceived to be a sign of greater romantic interest (Shotland and
Craig 1988). Additionally, traditional male flirts who were attracted to their conversation
partners conveyed physical attraction through a higher vocal pitch for the first half of the
interaction. Anolli and Ciceri (2002) found that a higher vocal pitch by males was asso-
ciated with romantic interest and greater success in courtship, particularly when the higher
pitch occurs earlier in an interaction (i.e., the attention getting stage). Traditional male flirts
who were attracted also tended to cross their legs less often, adopting a more open body
posture. Observational studies of males’ behavior suggest that an open body posture is
related to a greater likelihood of courtship initiation (Renninger et al. 2004). These
behaviors suggest traditional males might show more behaviors clearly signaling romantic
interest.
The sincere flirting style is associated with communicating attraction through conveying
genuine interests, conversation and self-disclosure, and focused attention (Hall et al. 2010).
As such, prior research (Hall 2013) suggests that sincere flirts would be unlikely to tease
their conversational partners, particularly males. Sincere flirts report greater flirting success
and more likely to feel they make a good impression in courtship initiation. Playing with
inanimate objects is associated with less romantic interest (Shotland and Craig 1988)asit
is a sign of distraction or boredom (Fichten et al. 1992). Sincere flirts who were attracted to
their conversation partner engaged in self-touch less, particularly male participants.
Another interpretation of less fidgeting and self-touch is that sincere flirts were less
uncomfortable or nervous while having a conversation with an opposite-sex stranger.
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Sincere female flirts who were attracted to the partner displayed several behaviors indic-
ative of interest and attraction. For the duration of the interaction, sincere female flirts who
were attracted to their partners were more likely to engage in one behavior strongly related
to signaling romantic attraction: the coy gaze (Grammer et al. 2000; Moore 2010). Female
sincere flirts were also more likely to palm, a signal of soliciting interest. Furthermore,
correlations indicated that sincere females who were attracted engaged in another behavior
conceptually related to the sincere style: more smiling and laughing, another indicator of
females’ sexual openness (Penke and Asendorpf 2008). Sincere male flirts who were
attracted to their partners also demonstrated behaviors associated with openness and
interest: more leaning toward conversational partners (Shotland and Craig 1988), and
crossing both arms and legs less frequently during the interaction (Renninger et al. 2004).
The polite flirting style is more rule-governed, cautious, and non-sexual than the other
styles, and is associated with taking a longer time to develop a romantic relationship (Hall
et al. 2010). Even when physically attracted to a potential mate, polite flirts adopt a more
respectful and indirect manner of communicating attraction. Similar to the sincere style,
polite flirts who were attracted to their conversation partners were less likely to engage in
self-touch for the duration of the interaction, particularly polite males. Male polite flirts
who are physically attracted to their conversation partner maintained a respectful distance
during the interaction: they moved further apart in the 4–6 min interval. While closing
interaction distances is perceived to be associated with greater romantic interest (Abbey
and Melby 1986; Shotland and Craig 1988), the present investigation demonstrates that for
polite flirts being physically attracted means maintaining or increasing physical distance.
Interestingly, polite flirts attracted to their conversational partner asked fewer questions in
the first half of the interaction, particularly polite females. However, polite males who were
physical attracted showed their attraction by nodding and affirming more often in the
middle of the interaction. Finally, polite flirts who were attracted used a lower vocal pitch
for the duration of the interaction, particularly polite male flirts early in the interaction. A
lower pitch by males early in an interaction is indicative of less relational interest and less
success in seduction (Anolli and Ciceri 2002). Taken together, it appears that individuals
with the polite flirting style engage in less obvious behaviors when they are physically
attracted. Indeed, they appear to behave in a way that might be perceived as distant or
reserved, such as moving and leaning further away by females and using a lower pitch by
males. The lack of reliance on nonverbal behavior as a means of communicating attraction
across settings is consistent with the polite style on self-report survey measures as well
(McBain et al. 2013).
The playful flirting style is associated with flirting without the purpose of generating
romantic or personal interest (Hall et al. 2010), but for the purpose of gaining instrumental
goals (Henningsen 2004) and for boosting self-esteem. There was some indication that
playful males behaved in a more flirtatious way, specifically through extending or pro-
truding their chest (Koeppel et al. 1993) and by complimenting their partner early on (Hall
et al. 2008). Both male and female playful male flirts who were attracted to their con-
versation partners were more complimentary of partners in the first half of the interaction,
particularly playful males, perhaps attempting to attract attention in the early stages of the
conversation. Playful males who were attracted also crossed their legs less early on in the
interaction. By contrast, there was some evidence that playful female flirts behaved in a
coy manner (Clore et al. 1975): they acted more withdrawn by asking fewer question and
shrugging more in the first 3 min, but then engaged in more flirtatious glances in the
middle of the interaction. Taken together, this offers observational evidence that the
playful style is associated with both direct (i.e., protrude breast; compliments) and subtle
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(i.e., coy gaze) strategies of flirting when physically attracted to their conversational
partner.
For some flirting styles, the same verbal and nonverbal behaviors were related to more
attraction for both females and males, for other flirting styles there were more gender
differences in behavioral correlates. For the sincere, the polite, and the playful style,
behavioral correlates shared by both males and females explained a large amount of
variance in the style by interaction term. For the sincere and the playful style, males and
females who are attracted to their conversational partner appeared to behave similarly. By
contrast, the shared behaviors explained less variance in the attraction by style interaction
term for the physical and traditional styles. That is, more behaviors moderated by the
gender of the participant. There were more behavioral correlates for traditional and polite
males than polite females, and there were more behavioral correlates for physical females
than physical males. As this is the first study to explore these associations, more research is
needed to confirm these results.
Physical Attraction and Behavior
The relationship between physical attraction and verbal and nonverbal behaviors was
explored independently of participants’ flirting styles to highlight the similarity between
the present investigation and past research. The present study identified behaviors well
documented to be associated with attraction. Verbally, individuals who were physically
attracted to their counterparts complimented their partner more, particularly males com-
plimenting females, and both eased each other less, particularly males. Compliments are a
clear, direct, and favorably regarded way to communicate attraction, while teasing is
generally perceived to be unappealing and undesirable (Hall et al. 2008). Considering
nonverbal behaviors, physically attracted participants engaged in less self-touch, a
behavior indicative of boredom rather than attraction (Fichten et al. 1992; Shotland and
Craig 1988). Females’ physical attraction to their male counterparts was associated with
more smiling and laughing in the second half of the interaction (Penke and Asendorpf
2008), and more palming for most of the interaction (Scheflen 1965). Physical attraction
was correlated with more flirtatious gazes in the first 3 min of the interaction, a strong
indicator of romantic interest (Grammer et al. 2000). Males who were attracted to their
female counterparts used a higher pitched voice during the interaction, another sign of
interest (Anolli and Ciceri 2002). The results suggest that the behavioral correlates of
attraction found in the present study are consistent with those identified in past courtship
initiation research.
Limitations and Directions for Future Research
One of the limitations of the present investigation is the applicability of behaviors in an
experimental lab to other contexts. The way that individuals interact when first meeting
one another in a controlled experimental setting may not generalize to more courtship-
relevant environments, such as bars or parties. Participants were probably more reserved
and socially appropriate than they might be in more festive environments. Given the
importance of context when flirting (Henningsen et al. 2008), the behaviors documented in
herein may only be applicable to similar settings. Additionally, the use of question cards to
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facilitate conversation and the fact that several participants held cards while talking may
have influenced other nonverbal behaviors as well as the interaction dynamics as a whole.
Flirting style influences both the social context one chooses to meet the opposite sex and
the comfort one feels in different contexts. Some flirting styles, such as physical and
playful, may be more likely to frequent bars or clubs to meet potential mates, while others,
such as sincere, may be more effective in settings resembling the zero-acquaintance par-
adigm (Hall 2013; McBain et al. 2013). This may also explain why the physical style was
associated with less compliments and fewer obvious indicators of romantic attraction in the
present investigation—this study was not conducted in an environment that physical flirts
would typically go to meet potential partners.
Another potential limitation is the exploratory and descriptive nature of the study. It is
important to note that describing behaviors associated with attraction or romantic interest is
consistent with the history of courtship research (see Moore 2010). In fact, the study most
similar to the present one both in method and analyses (i.e., Grammer et al. 2000) reports
the behavioral correlates of dating interest. The present investigation is descriptive, yet
consistent with past research. Furthermore, there are many other verbal and nonverbal
flirting behaviors that were not included in the present study, so nothing can be said about
the relationship between excluded behaviors and the five flirting styles.
Future research could explore degree of similarity in physical attraction to identify
differences in nonverbal behavior between pairs who are attracted to one another, pairs
who are not attracted, and pairs where one partner is attracted and the other is not.
Additionally, there is known variability between cultures in the communication of
romantic interest (Grammer et al. 1999) that was not accounted for in the present study.
There may be behaviors that are specific to particular age cohorts or associated with
different levels of dating experiences. The results of this study are limited to the cultural,
age, and socio-economic context presented in the results, and the findings should not be
assumed to apply to other cultures and contexts.
Conclusion
This study is an initial foray into organizing variability in flirting into a typology of
individual differences in courtship initiation behaviors. The results are promising given
that they appear to support the key assumption of the present investigation; namely, that
the variety of courtship behaviors identified in past research is reflective of the variety of
ways attraction can be communicated. Of greater importance is that each flirting style was
associated with behaviors intuitively linked to the conceptual definition of the style: more
demure behaviors for traditional female flirts and more assertive and open behaviors by
traditional male flirts, less fidgeting and distraction and more smiling and less teasing for
sincere flirts, more reserved and distancing behavior by polite flirts, and more obviously
engaging and flirtatious behaviors by playful flirts. Future research may continue to pursue
the concept that the variety of verbal strategies (Clark et al. 1999), tactics (Fisher and Cox
2011), and nonverbal behaviors (Moore 1985) can be clustered into meaningful and
interrelated clusters of flirting, broadly conceived. The FSI may offer one heuristic
inventory upon which these clusters can be formed a priori and validated through research.
If further research confirms these clusters of behaviors, it will provide further evidence in
support of the key assumption of the flirting styles approach; namely, there is more than
one way to flirt.
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Acknowledgements Thanks to study coordinators and coders: Seth Brooks, Arianne Fuchsberger,
Courtney Holle, Robin Latham, Trevor Perry. This research was supported by the University of Kansas
General Research Fund (GRF Award No. 2301662).
Appendix
Category Description How coded
Head
Rest head Rest head in hand or on back of chair Count
Nodding Moving head in an up or down direction in order to express/
signal agreement or interest in what the other participant is
saying
Count
Shaking head Moving head side to side to express/signal disagreement or lack
of interest in what the other participant is saying
Count
Stroking, flipping,
playing with hair
Pulling hair in a downward/through motion Count
Tussling, smoothing, or fixing hair
Moving hair out of face
Twirling
Any flip motion
Putting hair up or taking hair down
Mouth/face
Lips Bringing lips into mouth Count
Licking lips
Biting lip
Smiling Moving sides of mouth in an upward direction Count
Mouth manipulations Open mouth—dropped jaw Count
Pouting
Mouth movements for expressiveness (clenching, licking, or
exposing teeth, wincing, ‘‘o’’ face)
Thoughtful mouth—downturned
Expressiveness of
face
Eye brown flashes Count
Raising eyebrows
Big eyes, squinting eyes, mock anger
Overemphasizing facial expressions
Exaggerated smile—open mouth smile
Voice
Laughter Laughing in response to the other participant Count
Nervous laughter
Giggling—a light laugh in a nervous affected or silly manner
Signaling laughter (‘‘ha’’ before, during, or after talk)
Vocal expressiveness Quick rate of speech 1 =Slow,
monotone
Voice animated and excited 5 =Animated,
excited
Lots of variation in tone or pitch
(Overall rating for minute)
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Category Description How coded
Pitch/tone 5 =Higher pitch, more feminine tone, 5 =High pitch
1=Low pitch, more masculine tone, lower voice
(Overall rating for minute)
3=Androgynous
1=Low pitch
Torso/body
Leaning toward
other
participant
Forward angled motion from the hip, moving from an
erect or closed off position to a open or angled
position in the direction of the other participant
1=Leans back/away from
other
Upper body upright toward the other participant
(Overall rating for minute)
3=Up-right, or leans in
occasionally
5=Leans forward nearly whole
time
Arms cross,
open torso
Full exposure to breast/chest and stomach area (arms
not crossed)
1=Arms crossed nearly whole
time
Arms crossed around chest, stomach (overall rating
for minute)
3=One arm crossed, Hands in
lap, or half open and half
crossed over minute
5=Open, full exposure near
whole time
Move closer
together
Attempt to move chair closer to other person Count
Scooting body forward in seat
Breast
presentation/
protrusion
Lifting or expanding chest/breast area by extending
lower back upward toward other person, or by
pulling arms away from other person
Count
In combination with leaning forward, pressing breasts
together with upper torso
Fall in chair Letting body fall into chair either backward or
sideways
Count
Bending at torso or throwing head back or to the side
Touch Most likely in greeting or departure Count
Count for minute
Hands
Palming Open wrist and palm of the hand Count
Turning motion toward open toward other person—
full motion
Hand
movements
Using hands to emphasize a point or to help express
what they are saying verbally
Count
Any hand movement gets counted
Usually this accompanies speech
Self touching Hands running along any part of the body Count
Any time a body part is moving along another body
part in pointed/noticeable way
Itching body, head, or face
(Not hair touch)
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Category Description How coded
Artifact
adjustments
Resituating clothing Count
Eyewear adjustment
Rolling up sleeves or pant legs or skirts
Adjusting clothing in a way that reveals more skin
Playing with
objects
Wringing or messing with hands—rings, watches, bracelets,
nails, etc.
Count
Playing with buttons, zippers, strings
Fiddling with other objects
(Not the card)
Card
manipulation
Folding, turning, flipping, bending, waving card 1 =Not at all
Using card to enhance message or illustrate a point 3 =Some card
Pointing to or holding out card when talking about the
question on the card
5=Constant card
fidgeting
Cover face with
hands
Cover mouth with hand Count
Put one or two hands on cheeks or chin
Stroking chin or facial hair
Eyes
Flirtatious
glances
Eyebrow flash with a smile (coy smile) Count
Half-smile and lowered eyes
Winking
Sideways smile/look
Gazing To look steadily or intently at the other versus looking down
and away
(Overall rating for minute)
1=Looking away/
down nearly whole
time
3=Half look at and
half look down/away
5=Steady, intent gaze
at other
Coy gaze Brief look followed by look away—a gaze implying shyness
or modesty but intended to be alluring
Count
Legs
Erect and open
posture—legs
Count every time legs cross or uncross Count
Either one foot on one thigh, crossing at the ankles, or
crossing at knee
Conversation
Asking questions Asking the other for advice, opinions, or inputs when
answering the question
Count
Requesting reassurance on the answers they are giving based
on the card questions or interpreting the question (is this
what it is asking?)
Asking questions that are not on the card
Affirming Affirming (yes, that is interesting, oh?) Count
Encouraging responses—really? Sure!
General agreement or support
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... For example, Grammer (1990) found that women communicate romantic interest via bodily signals of self-presentation and submission, while men do this via body orientation and dominance signals; the lack of interest is communicated through closed postures in both sexes. Likewise, women express their attraction through smiling, laughing, and leaning toward male partners (Hall & Xing 2014). To demonstrate the wish to initiate romantic interaction, women also employ head tossing, grooming behaviours, self-touching, and caressing objects (Guéguen 2008). ...
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