Playing it cool or acting indifferent toward a person you find attractive just to try and get them to notice you or like you back is a popular trope in cinema and TV. But it does not actually work, according to a new study.
The idea of playing hard to get is not based on any science or psychology, according to researchers. It can actually have the opposite effect and make the potential partner even less attracted to such a person.
The study was carried out by a team of researchers who looked at the possible correlation between "uncertainty" and "sexual desirability" and went through six studies related to this subject.
The first study, notes a report by Curiosity, involved 50 male and 51 female university students, all of whom were single heterosexual people between the ages of 19 to 31.
They were each shown a picture of the opposite sex and, for the sake of control, only one image each of a man and woman were used for all test subjects. Each of them was informed that they will be chatting online with the person they saw in the picture.
As the chatting drew to a close, participants were informed that they could send one final message to their online chat partner. After they were done, researchers asked them to check their messages later. If they did receive a message, it signalled interest and that would mean the participant was attractive to the person they chatted with.
A few subjects did not receive any message, creating uncertainty.
Participants were then asked to scale sexual desirability of their chat partner from 1 to 5. Those who did receive a final message gave a significantly higher score when compared to those who did not. They were even interested in pursuing a future conversation with the chat partner.
Professor Harry Reis, one of the co-authors of the study, said, "People may protect themselves from the possibility of a painful rejection by distancing themselves from potentially rejecting partners."
People experience higher levels of sexual desire when they feel confident about a partner's interest and acceptance."
The certainty that comes with knowing where one stands with the other person makes a major difference in the way a person feels desire, sexual or otherwise, the study found.
Lead author of the study, Gurit Birnbaum added that sexual desire could serve as a gut-feeling indicator of a mate's suitability that motivates people to pursue actual romantic relationships with a reliable and valuable partner.