Science has discovered the perfect 'flirting face' used by women who want to date a man

Marie Claire Dorking
·3-min read

Running your fingers through your hair, licking your lips, touching your neck... When it comes to flirting, men and women aren’t necessarily all that great at picking up on non-verbal signals that someone is interested in them.

But scientists have uncovered what they describe as the perfect “flirty face” used by women who want to let men know they’re into them romantically.

Turns out women are likely to use common facial cues to demonstrate sexual interest in a way that can be seen and understood by men.

Forget flicking your hair, the surefire flirting techniques actually include a head turned to one side and tilted down slightly, a slight smile, and eyes turned toward the implied target.

Read more: Flirting with your colleagues 'could make you less stressed'

It seems this kind of identifiable facial expression is most likely to activate associations with relationships and sex in some men’s brains, which will let him know you’re keen.

Turns out women have a 'flirty face' when it comes to letting a man know they're interested. (Posed by model, Getty Images)
Turns out many women have a 'flirty face' they use to let a man know they're interested. (Posed by model, Getty Images)

The study, published in the Journal of Sex Research, revealed most men were able to distinguish a woman giving a flirty look, from them simply expressing happiness or anything else.

However, just as some women in the study were better able to “convey a flirtatious cue”, some men were better able to recognise them.

“Across our six studies, we found most men were able to recognise a certain female facial expression as representing flirting,” Omri Gillath, professor of psychology at University of Kansas, commented.

“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.

“Our findings support the role of flirtatious expression in communication and mating initiation.

“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.”

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To identify a woman’s key flirty face, professional actors and volunteers were asked to pose with a flirting expression or to follow instructions for what researchers define as flirting.

Read more: Men who choose a topless picture for their profile get fewer matches on dating apps

The flirty face involves a head turned to one side and tilted down slightly, a slight smile, and eyes turned toward the 'target'. (Posed by model, Getty Images)
The flirty face involves a head turned to one side and tilted down slightly, a slight smile, and eyes turned toward the 'target'. (Posed by model, Getty Images)

Despite many previous scientific articles in the field of sexuality, the team behind this study believe placing the focus on flirting with a person’s expression makes this research particularly original.

“There are very few scientific articles out there that have systematically studied this well-known phenomenon,” Professor Gillath explains.

“None of these studies have identified the flirting facial expression and tested its effects.”

Now, if we could have a similar study identifying men’s “flirty face”, that would be great. Thanks, science.