Love and relationships are celebrated on Valentine’s Day with flowers, chocolate and cards, but at Fresno State romance is always in the air for psychology professor Dr. Michael Botwin.

Michael BotwinBotwin and student researchers in his Personality, Evolution, Attraction Research Lab, or PEARL as it is known, study flirtation and the early stages of relationships. Botwin has also started to take a deeper look at infatuation.

“One of the things we do as humans is to look for others to be with — 90% of all humans get married at least once in their lives,” said Botwin, an evolutionary psychologist in the College of Science and Mathematics at Fresno State for the past 30 years. “It’s extremely exciting to meet a new potential romantic partner.”

The lab conducts its research through surveys of students who are dating, married couples and single people depending on the research topic. Over the years those projects have included mating intelligence and happiness and the factor structure of romantic infatuation.

In one of Botwin’s longest standing research projects, students surveyed people to find out the most effective flirting behaviors. More than 1,000 people have completed his 163 flirting behavior report.

In honor of Valentine’s Day, Botwin shares some of his findings about flirting and mate selection:

  1. Flirting behaviors are courtship rituals, a way that people evaluate each other. Cheesy opening lines don’t work when flirting. Stay straight, be cool and simply introduce yourself, “Hi, my name is …”
  2. People often ask what the magic flirting behavior is — the big pick-up line. The highest-rated flirting behaviors are just really good social skills.
  3. Women are the powerhouse behind flirting. If she doesn’t address a man, he’s out of luck. The most effective flirting behaviors identified by men and women include: showing sincerity, making conversation and making direct eye contact and smiling.
  4. The least effective flirting behaviors by men, women said, is agreeing with everything a woman says and suggestive body language or gestures. Men identified women licking her lips, following men around, acting naive and making suggestive jokes as least effective.
  5. Women are choosy while guys are not fussy. It comes down to evolutionary biology because women can’t reproduce forever while men can. Mental fitness indicators come into play, basically intelligence. How do you show off intelligence? Having the gift to gab or tell interesting stories, being funny, showing heroism or having musical talent.