Brain and Body

Researchers Find That This Simple Behavior Could Make You More Attractive to Others

April 12, 2016 | Kelly Tatera

Romantic date
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For both in-person and online dating.

Contrary to the cliché love-at-first-sight picture painted by popular movies, dating can be a whirlwind of confusing (or humiliating) encounters. Trying to figure out what’s going on in the mind of a prospective romantic partner is no simple task.

Now, a new study suggests that a simple behavior could make you more attractive to others: taking up as much physical space as possible, or “displays of expansive posture,” as the researchers put it.

Colloquially dubbed as “manspreading,” this research solidifies that body language and nonverbal cues are just as important as what you say to another person when it comes to the dating game.

This finding is based on the analysis of 144 speed daters and 3,000 online daters in two different scenarios — either meeting face-to-face or browsing through online dating profiles on a smartphone.

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“Expansive postures” were considered to be stances that included stretched torsos and outspread limbs, and the researchers say this simple behavior could increase your chances of attracting a mate.

"We've seen it in the animal world, that taking up more space and maximising presence in a physical space is used as signal for attracting a mate," one of the researchers Tanya Vacharkulksemsuk from the University of California, Berkeley, told CNN. "By exerting dominance they're trying to signal to a potential mate, 'I am able to do things, I have a space in this hierarchy, I have access to resources.'"

Vacharkulksemsuk says that “power postures” convey a sense of dominance, which many people find attractive, as well as a willingness to share resources with others.

Interestingly, the people in the study who exerted expansive postures were found to almost double their odds of getting a “yes” response to a second date — and even smiling and laughing didn’t draw as positive a response as a dominant posture.

In order to come to these findings, the researchers conducted two field studies. One involved speed-dating interactions, and the other used an “unnamed leading GPS-based online dating application,” CNN reports.

In the first experiment, the researchers filmed 144 speed-dating sessions, and analyzed nonverbal cues through gestures, posture, and facial expression. After the dating sessions, the participants filled out surveys of their impressions of the other person and whether they would want to go on a second date — “the gold standard of success," according to Vacharkulksemsuk.

SEE ALSO: Drinking Booze on a Date Affects Men and Women Very Differently, Research Finds

For the second experiment with the unnamed dating app, heterosexual volunteers set up two profiles with contrasting types of photos to measure the different types of reactions.

For both men and women, having expansive posture was found to be beneficial and garnered an increase in “likes,” although the effect was greater for the males in the study — 87 percent of the positive responses for male volunteers were in response to an “open” posed photograph rather than a “closed” one.

However, there’s more than one way to interpret the male response to a female with an expansive posture.

Irving Biederman, a professor of neuroscience from the University of Southern California, told The Atlantic that some men might see an expansive-postured woman as vulnerable rather than dominant.

On the other hand, an anthropology expert from the University of Notre Dame, Agustín Fuentes, thinks that the results could show a more general social preference for openness rather than simply suggesting that an open pose is seen as more attractive.

Vacharkulksemsuk and her colleagues believe that their study, which is published in the journal PNAS, may be indicative of a larger shift in the dating game, and that men might be looking for something different than the typical non-threatening female stereotype.

Women have been told for decades that they’re most attractive when they’re reserved, generally non-threatening, and speak in high-pitched voices, according to The Atlantic. This data “may be signifying a change in what men are looking for in women,” Vacharkulksemsuk said.

In fact, research from Northwestern University and the University of Innsbruck suggests that male dating preferences are evolving to increasingly value brains over beauty when choosing long-term partners.

So, next time you find yourself on a date, try sitting up tall and taking up as much physical space as you can — it might just help land you that second date.

You might also like: One Mistake Science Says You’re Making When Online Dating

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