Is that girl at the bar interested in you? Actually, you probably have no idea. And neither does your wingman.
According to a study published in Communication Research, everyone is pretty terrible at knowing if someone else is flirting.
In one experiment, fifty-two pairs of single, heterosexual college students had to sit alone in a room and talk for ten minutes, thinking it was a study on first impressions. After, they had to fill out questionnaires. Amongst other things, students had to say if they flirted, or if they thought their partner had. People were about 80% accurate in knowing if their partner wasn’t flirting. However, only 36% of men knew when they were being flirted with. For women, the number was 18%.
According to Jeffery Hall, the study’s author, “Behaviour that is flirtatious is hard to see, and there are several reason for that. People aren’t going to do it in obvious ways because they don’t want to be embarrassed, flirting looks a lot like being friendly, and we are not accustomed to having our flirting validated so we can get better at seeing it.”
In another experiment, more than 250 people watched six one-minute video clips of the first group interacting. The thirty-party observers had to say whether they thought there was any flirting going on. When there wasn’t, the third-party observers were 66% accurate. When they did, they were 38% accurate. Lowest accuracy was amongst women observing men flirting—only 22% accuracy. Both men and women had and easier time detecting flirting when women did the flirting.
“It doesn’t appear to be the case that men have some intuition about women and women have some intuition about men. But it does seem that women are just a little more clear if they are interested or not,” Hall said.