The Science of Dating: Pick-Up Lines

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:

Location

Line

Responses rated as good to excellent (%)

General

Hi

60.0

Bars

Do you want to dance?

63.6

Restaurant

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

58.2

Supermarkets

Can I help you with those bags?

60.8

Laundrette

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

56.6

Beach

Want to play Frisbee?

67.7

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:

Line

Responses rated as good to fantastic (%)

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

71.6

Hi

58.9

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

57.1

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

54.6

Can you give me directions (to anywhere)?

47.8

The Worst Rated Lines:

Line

Responses rated as poor to terrible (%)

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

81.6

Didn’t we meet in a previous life?

81.3

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

79.5

I’m easy, are you?

79.2

What’s your sign?

78.8

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!

ResearchBlogging.org

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

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