Ugh, A Study Finds Playing Hard To Get Actually Works, It’s Not All Bad News, Though

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Love, in history books, has a decent track record for being difficult. Humans are complex, messy creatures who subconsciously and sometimes actively act in bizarre or, otherwise, ‘bad’ ways. In the context of playing hard to get, there’s nothing wrong with “the chase” as long as it’s respectful and is inclusive of everyone’s feelings. You can do both, you know?

There’s a fine line between being a jerk and playing the game in the name of courtship and flirtation.

We’ve all played hard to get at some point in our lives and in some capacity. And for the average person, it’s not usually a strategic/conscious effort to make the other person feel bad about themselves. It’s usually just a strategy to make ourselves look like we have multiple options which we feel will make the other person be more attracted to us. Which we’ve now been proven RIGHT!

Yes, even when people get cold or mean toward the person they like, that it does in fact increase a potential mate’s perceived desirability.



Top down, it’s kind of nonsensical. Why would we be more interested in the person who’s treating us more poorly? We’ve all found ourselves in a similar situation, haven’t we, though? One way or another, you just don’t know why but the more they neglect you or pull away, the more desirable they seem and the closer you want to get. Hit the nail on the head, huh? Well, while some of us may have found success with this risky strategy, science is here to weigh in! It works.

“Playing hard to get makes it seem as if you are more in demand—we call that having higher mate value,” says Harry Reis, a professor of psychology and Dean’s Professor in Arts, Sciences & Engineering at Rochester, in a release.

“People who are too easy to attract may be perceived as more desperate,” adds co-author Gurit Birnbaum, a social psychologist and associate professor of psychology at the IDC Herzliya in Israel. “That makes them seem less valuable and appealing—than those who do not make their romantic interest apparent right away.”

WTF IS “Higher Mate Value”

It’s pretty straight forward. It’s your perceived value as a mate. But how did they calculate it in these experiments. They looked at three inter-connected experiments, where participants were told they were talking to someone of the opposite sex but they were just talking to a member of the research team.

They were asked three thing in all experiments::

  1. To describe how unattainable or ‘hard to get’ the person was
  2. Their perception of that person’s potential value as a mate
  3. How much they desired to hook up with that person

So, what did they find exactly? Well…


  1. Those who spoke to ‘hard to get’ profiles rated them more desirable than those who spoke with less selective profiles.
  2. They rated profiles as more valuable and sexually attractive if they put in more effort to get their attention and affection
  3. Those who got hard to get profiles tried a lot harder to convince the person they were talking to to see them again.

With knowledge comes power and with great power, comes great responsibility: Don’t play too hard to get!

Even though science is saying yes, acting ‘hard to get’ can increase your mate value, it won’t always guarantee a win. When done right, playing hard to get is a good tool to have in your repertoire. When done badly, it can backfire. Hard.

Play too hard to get, you’ll come off as a jerk. We all just thought about that one person who did that where you ended up just spotting 1,800 red flags and never called them back.

Find that balance, young padawan.

H/T: SAGE, Study Finds

If you’re media and want to reach our Editor, email Moira Ghazal at social @clover. co

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