What women are looking for in pick-up lines.

By Seriously Science | May 8, 2014 9:33 am
Photo: flickr/maximeguilbot

Photo: flickr/maximeguilbot

Ever wonder whether certain pick-up lines work better than others? Should you go for the classic “Do you come here often?” or a simple “Do you have the time?”  Here, researchers tested different types of pick-up lines (flippant, direct, or innocuous; see examples below) to determine which type women preferred. It turns out that women looking for a long-term relationship preferred direct or innocuous lines, whereas women looking to hook up preferred attractive men, regardless of the pick-up line. The authors hypothesize that women looking for long-term partners (a “good dad”) view flippant pick-up lines as signs of low trustworthiness and intelligence, while short-term relationship seekers only care about “good genes” for their offspring.  But in our opinion, anyone who uses the line “Do you have any raisins? No? Well then, how about a date?” probably doesn’t have great genes either (or at least not those that influence sense of humor).

An Evolutionary Perspective on Effective vs. Ineffective Pick-up Lines

“This experiment examined women’s impressions of men using various “pick-up” lines. Seventy women imagined being approached by a man using a flippant and flirtatious “pick-up” line, a direct complimentary line, or an innocuous line that masks his interest. His attractiveness varied too. They then considered him for long-term or short-term relationships. Matching a “good dad” hypothesis, they favored him for a long-term relationship if he used a direct or innocuous line instead of the flippant line, because the latter conveyed lower trustworthiness and intelligence. Matching a “good genes” hypothesis, they favored him for a short-term relationship if he was attractive instead of unattractive, regardless of his pick-up line, presumably because attractiveness signals heritable fitness. Limitations and theoretical implications are discussed.”

Bonus excerpt from the main text:

“We pilot tested 30 different pick-up lines, 15 flippant ones selected from various internet sites, and 15 non-flippant lines selected from the prior research. Twenty-nine female university students (M age = 21.5 years, SD = 3.18) rated each on funniness and ease of response, each on 1 (not at all) to 5 (very much) scales. The nine selected lines, provided below, all scored highest (between 3–4) on ease of response, and the three flippant lines all scored highest (above 3) on funniness:

Flippant lines
1. Do you have any raisins? No? Well then, how about a date?
2. Can I get a picture of you so I can show Santa what I want for Christmas?
3. Shall we talk or continue flirting from a distance?

Direct lines
1. I saw you across the room and knew I had to meet you. What’s your name?
2. Hi, I saw you and thought, ‘I’m gonna kick myself all night if I don’t at least come over and say Hi.’ So … Hi. What’s your name?
3. I feel a little embarrassed about this … but I’d like to meet you. What’s your name?

Innocuous lines
1. What do you think of the band?
2. You look really familiar. Have we taken a class together?
3.Do you have the time?”

Related content:
NCBI ROFL: An evolutionary explanation for baldness?
NCBI ROFL: An evolutionary analysis of tattooed ladies.
NCBI ROFL: Wham, bam, thank you ma’am: an evolutionary perspective.

  • bad science

    Why the assumption that women are looking for a dad for their hypothetical children and that somehow sexual attraction is linked exclusively to genes? Those pick-up lines were BAD. So bad that they would only work if they guy saying them were super hot.

    Okay for real though. For heterosexual women, male attractiveness is allegedly rooted in genetic fitness. I never see this explanation applied to men, who, according to stereotype, disregard all markers of genetic inferiority as long as their target is sufficiently attractive. Can it be only women who have an incentive to care about their offspring? I thought for these guys, the imperative to reproduce trumps every other factor in the human experience, but I guess that only applies to females in evolutionary theory!

    Once again: why do scientists believe it is valid to disregard completely the effects of socialization and acculturation in the development of sexuality? I just love when applying the “evolutionary perspective” means simply drawing a straight line between genes and literally any observation about human behavior, the more reductive the better. Thank you for mocking this mockery of a study.

  • Will

    “Seventy women imagined being approached by a man ” This blows the whole method out of the water for me. Imagination and reality rarely sync up


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Seriously, Science?, formerly known as NCBI ROFL, is the brainchild of two prone-to-distraction biologists. We highlight the funniest, oddest, and just plain craziest research from the PubMed research database and beyond. Because nobody said serious science couldn't be silly!
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