Guide to Flirting
What Social Science can tell you about flirting and how to do it
Why do we flirt?
Flirting is much more than just a bit of fun: it is a universal andessential aspect of human interaction. Anthropological researchshows that flirting is to be found, in some form, in all cultures andsocieties around the world.
Flirting is a basic instinct, part of human nature. This is not surprising: if we did not initiate contact and express interest in members of the oppositesex, we would not progress to reproduction, and the human species would become extinct.According to some evolutionary psychologists, flirting may even be thefoundation of civilisation as we know it. They argue that the large human brain – our superior intelligence, complex language, everything thatdistinguishes us from animals – is the equivalent of the peacock's tail: acourtship device evolved to attract and retain sexual partners. Our achievements in everything from art to rocket science may be merely aside-effect of the essential ability to charm.
If flirting is instinctive, why do we need this Guide?
Like every other human activity, flirting is governed by a complex set of unwritten laws of etiquette. These rules dictate where, when, with whomand in what manner we flirt. We generally obey these unofficial lawsinstinctively, without being conscious of doing so.We only become aware of the rules when someone commits a breach of this etiquette – by flirting with the wrong person, perhaps, or at aninappropriate time or place. Chatting up a widow at her husband's funeral, for example, would at the very least incur disapproval, if not serious distress or anger.This is a very obvious example, but the more complex andsubtle aspects of flirting etiquette can be confusing – andmost of us have made a few embarrassing mistakes.Research shows that men find it particularly difficult tointerpret the more subtle cues in women's body-language,and tend to mistake friendliness for sexual interest.Another problem is that in some rather Puritanical cultures,such as Britain and North America, flirting has acquired a bad name. Some of us have become so worried aboutcausing offence or sending the wrong signals that we are indanger of losing our natural talent for playful, harmlessflirtation.So, to save the human race from extinction, and preserve thefoundations of civilisation, Martini commissioned Kate Foxat the Social Issues Research Centre to review and analyseall the scientific research material on interaction between thesexes, and produce a definitive guide to the art and etiquetteof enjoyable flirting.