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If you start looking for studies on flirting and romantic attraction, the psychologist Nicolas Guéguen’s name comes up repeatedly.
For years, Guéguen has been researching the science of heterosexual courtship; he and his colleagues have published multiple papers on what makes a woman more likely to agree to go out with a man.
As it turns out, it’s not just about how the guy looks – environmental factors may play a huge role. As in, gentlemen will probably want to pose their request on a sunny day, but not when carrying a gym bag.
Below, we’ve rounded up some of Guéguen’s most intriguing insights.
Keep in mind that you should always take study findings with a grain of salt, especially when they come from a single researcher. There’s no telling whether all of these results will apply to you and your romantic interactions.
But taken together, these findings do suggest that there are ways for men to boost their appeal in the eyes of women – without putting in much effort.
Touch her forearm lightly
The scene: a nightclub in France. The actors: an attractive young man (the experimental confederate) and 120 unsuspecting young women.
The young man went up to women, introduced himself as “Antoine,” and asked if they’d like to dance. Half the time, he touched the women lightly on their forearm; half the time he made his request without any physical contact.
Sure enough, women were more likely to agree to the dance when the man had touched their arm.
A similar experiment revealed that men who approached women pedestrians and asked for their phone numbers were more successful when they touched the women’s forearms.
- Oli Scarff/Getty Images
Wait for a sunny day
One summer, Guéguen sent a bunch of 20-year-old male business students onto the streets of France. He tasked them with soliciting phone numbers from 500 young women.
Half the time, the participants were sent out on sunny days; half the time, they were sent out on cloudy days.
In both conditions, the men introduced themselves as “Antoine,” told the woman they found her pretty, and asked for her phone number so he could call her later about getting a drink.
As it turns out, women were significantly more likely to provide their digits when the sun was shining.
Ask her for a favor first
Another study found that the “foot-in-the-door” technique, often used by salespeople, can work for romantic interactions, too. Essentially, when you ask someone to do one thing for you, they’re more likely to comply with a second request – in this case, to go on a date.
For the study, three men between 19 and 21 years old approached nearly 400 young women walking alone in shopping malls in France.
Sometimes, the men carried a cigarette with them and asked the women for a light; regardless of whether the women had one, they then asked the women if they’d like to have a drink.
Other times, the men simply asked for directions; again, regardless of whether the women were able to provide them, they then asked the women out for a drink.
Still other times, the men asked the women out without asking them for anything else.
Results showed that women accepted the men’s requests at a rate of just 3% when they weren’t asked for anything. But when asked for a light or to give directions, they agreed about 15% of the time.
Bring Fido with you
Once again, an attractive 20-year-old man was assigned to approach 240 young women walking in the street. After introducing himself and telling the women he found them pretty, he asked for their phone numbers.
Half the time, the man was accompanied by a medium-sized, friendly black dog on a leash; half the time it was just the man.
Results showed that 28% of women gave their numbers when the man was walking a dog; just 9% of women did so when the man was alone.
Carry a guitar case
Research has found that women may prefer men who supposedly compose complex music over those who supposedly compose simple songs.
One of Guéguen’s studies extends these findings, suggesting that even the appearance of being a musician can boost a man’s appeal.
An attractive 20-year-old man approached 300 women in French shopping streets, introduced himself, told them he found them pretty, and asked for their number.
The man carried either a gym bag, a guitar case, or nothing at all.
Sure enough, 31% of women provided their phone number when the man carried a guitar case, compared to just 9% when he carried a sports bag and 14% when he wasn’t carrying anything.
- Tony Marshall / Stringer / Getty Images
Approach her when she’s near a bakery
It’s not just how you smell that can affect your chances of scoring a date – the odors in the surrounding environment matter, too.
Five 20-year-old men approached 400 young women walking alone in a French shopping mall, and as per usual, introduced themselves, told them they found them pretty, and asked for their number.
In this case, the men looked for women in different parts of the mall, so sometimes they were near a delicious-smelling place like a bakery or a coffee shop, and sometimes they were near a neutral-smelling store, like a clothing shop or a bank.
As it turns out, 23% of the women handed over their digits when they were surrounded by a pleasant aroma, compared to just 14% when the odor was neutral.