Scientists studied the facial expressions of women who were interested in men to find the four facial movements.
Wading through the world of romantic connections can be confusing for most of us. We don't know who is interested in us and sometimes, even, who we are into. This journey is as confusing for men as it is for women. There is no dearth of studies or advice that people have to offer but there is nothing definitive on the subject but if a new study is to be believed, there are certain signs that can reveal if someone is flirting.
Considering that most of us flirt with the person we are attracted to, the study may have some crucial information for men. Published in the Journal of Sex Research, Identifying a Facial Expression of Flirtation and Its Effect on Men, by Parnia Haj-Mohamadi, Omri Gillath, and Erika L. Rosenberg, claims to have identified four facial movements that imply flirtation.
The researcher only looked at heterosexual interactions for the purpose of their study. "Internal states may be conveyed to others nonverbally through facial expression. We investigated the existence of a particular facial cue that may be effectively used by women to indicate interest in a man," the study read. "The discrepancies are indicative of individual differences among women in effectively conveying a flirtatious facial cue and among men in recognizing this cue," it added.
For the six-part study, the researchers used the Facial Action Coding System (FACS) to investigate the "role of flirtatious expression in communication and mating initiation." FACS is based on 23 different facial movements that correspond to varying displays of emotion.
"There are very few scientific articles out there that have systematically studied this well-known phenomenon," said Omri Gillath, professor of psychology at Kansas University, who co-wrote the paper. "None of these studies have identified the flirting facial expression and tested its effects," Gillath said in a press release. He and her team found "a certain female facial expression as representing flirting," Gillath said. "It has a unique morphology, and it’s different from expressions that have similar features — for example, smiling — but aren’t identified by men as flirting expression," he added.
To conduct the study, women, professional actors, and volunteers were asked to pose with a flirting expression or to "follow instructions based on existing anthropological literature for what researchers define as flirting," the press release said. They found that some women are better at "effectively conveying a flirtatious facial cue, while some men are better at recognizing this cue."
"For the first time, not only were we able to isolate and identify the expressions that represent flirting, but we were also able to reveal their function: to activate associations related with relationships and sex," Gillath told Cosmopolitan.
Through their study, the researchers found that these four facial movements indicate sexual or romantic interest in a man:
1. Head turned to one side
2. Chin tilted down slightly
3. A slight smile
4. Eyes turned forward to gaze at the implied target of flirtation
Haj-Mohamadi, Gillath, and Rosenberg also found that "flirtatious facial expressions, as compared with happy or neutral expressions, led to faster identification of sex words by men," according to Psychology Today.
These researchers weren't the only ones interested in decoding the mechanics of flirting. A previous study also looked at why people flirt. In a 2004 review of the literature on flirting, Northern Illinois University professor David Dryden Henningsen indicates six motivations for flirting, according to Business Insider.
The reasons were intercourse, treating it like a sport, trying to see what being in a relationship would be like, trying to increase the intimacy in a relationship, increasing one's self-esteem, and trying to get something from the other person.