New Research on Human Attraction Upends “Playing Hard to Get”


Jun 12, 2018


Playing hard to get is the surest way to attract the person you want. Or is it?

A recent study by Israel-based Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya and the University of Rochester showed that this age-old M.O. might be hindering our search for that special someone.

The research, published in Computers in Human Behavior, showed that when people feel their interest in a person is reciprocated, they tend to put more effort into meeting the person, while also claiming they find them more sexually attractive.

“People may protect themselves from the possibility of a painful rejection by distancing themselves from potentially rejecting partners,” says study co-author Harry Reis, a professor of psychology and Dean’s Professor in Arts, Sciences & Engineering at Rochester.

In fact, playing hard to get may possibly attract the wrong kind of partner, because this approach may attract partners who are not looking for any serious commitment.

“Yes, if you show that you’re confident and you don’t ‘need’ somebody, you appear like you’ve got lots of options and so you must be a good catch. The trouble is, though, that if you pretend you’re not fussed about having someone there for you, you’re going to be an attractive choice for a guy that’s not that into commitment,” Mairi Macleod, Ph.D., wrote in Psychology Today.

Dating coach Erika Ettin is of a similar opinion. While playing hard to get might appeal to those who enjoy the thrill of the chase, it might discourage those partners who are looking to be able to communicate honestly about feelings, she told Business Insider.

Indeed, young Indians who are actively dating already seem to understand this behavioral principle on a subconscious level.

“As a general rule, no I don’t find it appeals to me when someone plays hard to get, ’cause in the online dating space attention spans are short and people lose interest quickly,” says M, a 28 year old woman who actively dates on Tinder and Hinge. “So if someone plays hard to get I might just think they lost interest. Which means it’s a bad strategy. If someone shows interest I know it’s going somewhere.”

If playing hard to get creates thrill and excitement in the form of romantic tension, that does not necessarily translate into liking the subject of one’s romantic chase. In fact, it may mean quite the opposite, according to Hong Kong research that was conducted using male participants. They found that men described wanting women to play hard to get, however they liked them much less compared to women who showed enthusiasm when interacting with them.

“If she plays hard to get, so I think that she is having much more attitude about her beauty. If someone is upfront, [and] showing interest, then you will get more interested into talking. So it’s two way communication, if one way communication is there, then you will not get interested,” explains N, a 25 year old man from Mumbai.

For those looking for flirting, excitement, and romantic intrigue, playing hard to get may still be the right strategy. But for those seeking a more concrete and long-term relationship, being sincere might be the best way to go.



Written By Angelina Shah

Angelina Shah is a staff writer with The Swaddle. In her previous life she was a copywriter in advertising. She has a penchant for reading, singing, travelling and being obsessed with superheroes.


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