The Science of Dating: Pick-Up Lines

As a bit of a break from my usual blogging routine, this weeks blogs will all be on a theme. The science of dating, moving from pick-up lines through to the biochemistry of long term relationships. I will go through the staggering amount of research in this area and attempt to find out if you can use science to orchestrate a perfect date! [Note: Appologies for the poor formatting word press went a tad crazy when I put the tables in!]


“If I could be any enzyme I would be DNA Helicase so I could unzip your genes”



There is more to the science of chat-up lines than utilising some classic science puns on an unsuspecting individual. A surpring amount of research has been done into why we attempt pick-up lines and which have the greatest chance of a positive reception, a 1986 study by Chris Kleinke sought to answer the latter.

The study was divided into two parts, one looking at lines that men use to meet women and the other looking at the inverse. In the first part of the study 137 men and 163 women (90% of participants were under 27) were asked to list ‘lines’ that they thought would be successful. These were then ranked by women on a 7 point scale (from 1-Terrible to 7-Excellent). The lines were then grouped into types, ‘Cute-Flipant’, ‘Direct Approach’ or ‘Innocuous’. From this it was observed that women prefer direct or innocous lines compared to cute-flipant, although the most direct lines (such as “I’m easy, are you?”) unsurprisingly ranked very poorly! But what lines in particular were ranked at the best and worst?

The Best Rated Lines:



Responses rated as good to excellent (%)





Do you want to dance?



I haven’t been here before, what’s good on the menu?



Can I help you with those bags?



Want to go and grab a beer or cup of coffee while we’re waiting?



Want to play Frisbee?


The Worst Rated Lines:
Line Responses rated as poor to terrible (%)
General – Is that really your hair? 89
Bar – (Looking at a woman’s jewellery) Wow it looks like you’ve just robbed a Woolworths. 89.6
Laundrette – A man shouldn’t have to wash his own clothes 83.5
Supermarkets – Do you really eat that junk? 89.6
Beach – Did you notice me throwing that football? Good arm, huh? 88.2

But what about women? Well, when the study looked at the lines used by women they asked, 93 male and 112 female, students from the Universities Of California and Massachusetts for what liens women might use. They were ranked on the same 7 point scale and the following:

The Best Rated Lines:


Responses rated as good to fantastic (%)

Since we’re both sitting alone would you like to join me?




I’m having trouble getting my car started. Will you give me a hand?


I don’t have anyone to introduce me, but I’d really like to get to know you more.


Can you give me directions (to anywhere)?


The Worst Rated Lines:


Responses rated as poor to terrible (%)

It’s been a long time since I’ve had a boyfriend


Didn’t we meet in a previous life?


Hey baby, you’ve got a gorgeous chassis. Mind if I look under the hood?


I’m easy, are you?


What’s your sign?


Being aware of which lines are deemed good and which are deemed bad begs the question, why do we do it? A separate more recent study from Edinburgh University commented on this. They also found that direct approaches for sex (such as ” I’m not Fred Flintstone but i’ll make your bed rock”) and hyperbole compliments were treated with great disdain, commenting that it is a wonder why we had evolved to aproach the opposite sex in this way. In the end they theorised that it may be “used by men to identify sociosexually uninhibited women”, a polite way of saying they are looking for easy girls!

As far as I can tell the only studies that have been done into pick-up lines have been questionnaire filled in surveys then statistically analysed. Does this really tell us what works and what doesnt work in the real world? I think anthopologists should actually go to bars and use lines and observe their effects. If only for the pure amusement I would get from a scientists approaching someone on a beach and saying:

“Let me see your strapmarks?” … 86.8 % of girls rated this as poor to terrible!

BALE, C., MORRISON, R., & CARYL, P. (2006). Chat-up lines as male sexual displays Personality and Individual Differences, 40 (4), 655-664 DOI: 10.1016/j.paid.2005.07.016

Kleinke, C., Meeker, F., & Staneski, R. (1986). Preference for opening lines: Comparing ratings by men and women Sex Roles, 15 (11-12), 585-600 DOI: 10.1007/BF00288216


24 thoughts on “The Science of Dating: Pick-Up Lines

    • Wouldn’t most people start with a “Hi” then follow with the chat up line though? Although as Stuart says I guess that really depends on how they say “Hi”! hmm….

      another thought provoking blog, can’t wait to read the rest of this weeks theme!

  1. Hey! Are the worst lines the same for men and women or is this the tables appearing wrong from a copy + paste error?

  2. Pingback: Science of Dating: Topics of Conversation « B Good Science Blog

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  4. Not sure if this is super relevant, actually. Women can’t adequately teach a man how to pick up women; they aren’t the experts just because they’re female. It’s like asking everyone in the world to teach you how to advertise to them. No one would tell you, “lots of cleavage, flashing .gifs and ridiculously blown out of proportion copy.” But that’s what works.

    Not saying that this isn’t an interesting article, just not related to actual seduction.

    • I guess I can add to this…

      “Do you want to dance” will get you nowhere in a bar, unless you have amazing sub-communications. But it’s what Hallmark would say, or what you see in movies. Almost anything you say can “work,” if done right, but here are some that I’ve used with repeated success:

      “You are absolutely stunning, and I was hoping to meet you. I’m —-.”

      “Excuse me, is this seat taken? No? Wonderful (sit with them). I noticed a distinct lack of random dude.”

      “Hi, I’m here to seduce you. Wait! I’m also psychic. Quick, think of a number between one… and two. And it has to be odd.”

    • In response to both your comments. Yeah I realise that this the information from the research isn’t going to be the key in seduction. But, I do think that as a piece of sociological and psychological research it is interesting. Although a practical, in effect “in vitro”, study of the pick up lines would be a much more interesting test. However, the variables would be too difficult to control to get any real reliable conclusions.

      In terms of your recommended lines…have to say they do seem to fall into the category in the research of “Cute-Flipant”, which I’m afraid to say weren’t ranked particularly highly by the participants…although if you make them work then good on you!

      • They do tests like this all the time. The idea isn’t to figure out what people think they want, but what they really want. There’s a study that I can’t quite remember all of the details of by a woman who runs a speed-dating company. Basically, she asked the contestants the day of the speed-dating what they thought their ideal partner would be like. Then she asked them a couple days later, and finally a month later.

        What she found was that the person that, say, contestant A would choose had nothing to do with their “ideal partner.” Even more interesting, contestant A’s “ideal partner” changed more to reflect the person they had met on the speed date (of course, only true if they “connected” with someone) when they filled out a similar “ideal partner” quiz days later. If the connection didn’t work out, the person would revert to their original “ideal partner” when quizzed after a month.

        Goes to show you that we have no freakin clue. If you’re interested, the study is mentioned in greater detail (and accuracy, with citations) in Blink, by Malcolm Gladwell.

  5. Pingback: Science of Dating: Topics of Conversation |

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  8. uuuummmmm a girl named Mandy said she wanted to have sex with me and i said if you want to come find me , but i am a girl and i told her that milions of times

  9. Pingback: When does a conversation starter become a pickup line? | Great Dates

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