October 24, 2005

The science of chat-up lines

Ratings of different categories of chat-up lines:

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The descriptions of the categories below:
For the analyses reported here we classified the items into seven groups characterised broadly by the following single-word descriptors. ‘Character’: 5 items demonstrating the man has qualities such as generosity, physical fitness, ability to take control of a situation, and spontaneous wit. ‘Culture’: 5 items. ‘Wealth’: 4 items. ‘Humour’: 6 items involving pre-planned humour. ‘Compliment’: 7 items. ‘Sex’: 7 items with a sexual content. Items that bridged two or more categories, or were difficult to categorise with confidence, were assigned to the miscellaneous group (‘Misc.’: 6 items). Since the number of items per group varied, we used the mean score per item to compare the groups.
The authors don't list all chat-up lines in their seven categories, but the following two were very successful and unsuccessful. Try to guess which was the successful one :)
q34 (Character) It is late at night and a woman is standing at the front of a line of people waiting for a bus. Two young men, talking loudly, obviously drunk, stagger up and push in front of her. A man, who is waiting just behind, walks up to them:

M: Excuse me lads, but I think this lady was first.

One of the young men squares up to the man.

Young Man: What’s it to you then?

M: Come on mate, it’s just manners, we’ve all been waiting here.

The young man stares, considering what to do. He glares at the man, then cursing under his breath walks with his friend to the back of the line.

W: Thanks.

M: That’s ok, they were pushing in front of all of us. My name’s James by the way.

q26 (Compliment) A man is walking around a busy bar as if looking for something. He spots a woman drinking alone at a table, walks up to her smiling, and says:

M: So there you are! I’ve been looking all over for YOU, the girl of my dreams!

Personality and Individual Differences (Article in Press)

Chat-up lines as male sexual displays

Christopher Bale


Chat-up lines, and other openings used to initiate a relationship with a woman, can be viewed as male displays. How well does their effectiveness accord with predictions from evolutionary psychology? 205 undergraduates (142 female, 63 male) rated 40 vignettes; in each vignette, a man approached a woman and the raters judged whether she would continue the conversation. Openings involving jokes, empty compliments and sexual references received poor ratings. Those revealing, e.g., helpfulness, generosity, athleticism, ‘culture’ and wealth, were highly rated. Although the length of the vignette—confounded here with item content—affected the rating, differences remained after the effects of length were eliminated. The success of openings which demonstrated culture was predicted from Miller’s (2000) ‘mating mind’ hypothesis; the success of others could be predicted from patterns of parental investment.


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