Psychological research published in Personality and Individual Differences examines how women competitively flirt against other women after laying claim to a particular man. The study indicates there are about a dozen nonverbal flirtatious behaviors that women engage in to caution other women that a potential partner is theirs.
“I have other research investigating flirting tactics and their perceived effectiveness, as well as other research investigating how men and women signal potential mates nonverbally in mate relevant contexts. So, I have a strong interest in flirtation,” said study author T. Joel Wade, the Presidential Professor of Psychology at Bucknell University.
“The third author of the current study was talking to me after a class session focused on flirting and she asked me a question about how women competitively flirt with other women for men’s attention in a mate relevant situation, and I told her I was not aware of any research that had examined the topic. So, we decided to do the research, and we brought in the second author, who is an international expert on intra-sexual competition among women.”
The researchers first asked 91 heterosexual women to think about situations in which they competed with other women for access to a man and list the nonverbal actions that they engaged in. After analyzing the responses, the researchers ended up with a list of 11 nonverbal flirtatious actions: “eye contact, dancing in his line of sight, smiling at him, touching him, giggling at his jokes, butting in between the other woman and the man, showing distaste for her (i.e., glaring, eye rolls, frowning), brushing against him, hugging him, flirting with other men, and waving to him.”
In a second study, 89 women and 50 men rated the perceived effectiveness of each action. The five most effective actions were: touching him, initiating eye contact, hugging him, giggling at his jokes, and butting in.
“Our research found strong agreement among men and women regarding which competitive flirtation tactics are most effective for women to utilize to deter a female competitor. Also, age did not have any effect,” Wade told PsyPost.
The findings indicate that “women’s flirtation to attract a mate is different from women’s flirtation to deter a competitor,” Wade said. Previous research indicates that the most effective ways for women to flirt with a man included acts such as moving closer to him, showing interest in him during a conversation, kissing him on the cheek, and rubbing against him.
“One caveat is that the research focused on perceived effectiveness rather than actual effectiveness,” Wade noted. In addition, “a question that should be addressed in the future is how competitive flirtation occurs among LGBTQ populations.”
The study, “I saw him first: Competitive nonverbal flirting among women, the tactics used and their perceived effectiveness“, was authored by T. Joel Wade, Maryanne L. Fisher, and Elizabeth Clark.