We all know how casual flirtation can lift one's mood, which can be important at this time of year when the winter blues are at their peak. But if you are more serious about your flirting and hope to get that all important phone number, you're better off waiting until it's sunny, according to new French research published in the journal Social Influence.
Nicolas Guéguen of the University of South Brittany - who has previously investigated how wearing red lipstick can increase a waitress' tips - conducted a study in which an 'attractive' 20 year old male approached 18-25 year old women walking alone in the street and asked them for their phone numbers. The women were solicited on both sunny and cloudy (but not rainy) days, when the temperature was about the same.
In the past other environmental factors have been found to make people more likely to flirt or exchange phone numbers – the presence of pleasant smells, romantic music or certain colours have all been found to have an effect.
Previous research has also shown how the weather can affect certain social behaviours – sunshine makes people more likely to help strangers or answer a survey, and people tend to leave bigger tips in restaurants on sunny days. But this is the first research to explore how the weather may influence courtship or dating behaviour.
It was found that women were more receptive to being approached and flirted with – and give out their phone numbers – on sunny days: over a fifth - 22.4% - of women did so when the sun was out, as opposed to 13.9% on the cloudy days.
(The phone numbers were later used to contact the women and tell them the true nature of the study, as per the recommendation of the ethics committee of the lab which reviewed the project!)
The message seems clear: flirting is more likely to have a positive outcome on sunny days. But Professor Guéguen was careful to include certain caveats regarding the applicability of the research to everyday situations: the sunshine (or other factors) may after all have improved the attractive 20 year old male's flirting skills on those days. Other atmospheric conditions such as windiness or humidity were not accounted for. And, perhaps most crucially, the research was conducted in France, where 'men traditionally approach women in romantic relationships'.
The journal article concludes with suggestions for further study in this area – for instance, are men themselves more likely to initiate flirting behaviour when the sun is shining? We'll have to wait until the Spring to find out!
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Nicolas Guéguen (2013): Weather and courtship behavior: A quasiexperiment with the flirty sunshine, Social Influence, DOI:10.1080/15534510.2012.752401