Does playing hard to get increase your desirability? According to a recent study, in some cases, it does. Dating columns are always advising not to come off as “too available.” But when does playing hard to get cross a line? If you’re too mysterious and elusive, you just seem downright untrustworthy. Here is what Psychology Today had to say about why playing hard to get works in love, according to science.
How to play. They say “all’s fair in love and war.” So playing hard to get is just one strategy in the battle for the human heart. But does it work?
Signals. Your behavior sends messages to your partner that are sometimes unconscious. Nobody wants someone who’s too available. But you can’t be chasing people forever…
What we know. According to Psychology Today, playing hard to get increases your suitor’s desire for you. People want what they can’t have. But should you play hard-to-get in the long run?
The study. Researchers Dai, Dong, and Jia posed this question in a 2014 study. They theorized that acting aloof has unique effects on human emotions. They guessed that playing hard to get increased feelings of “wanting” in others, but decreased how much the person “liked” the object of their desire.
The study. To test their hypothesis, they conducted two studies. Male students in Hong Kong were asked to either meet a woman for a date, or read a hypothetical dating story. The women they read about either behaved positively “easy to get” or passively “hard to get.”
Scarcity.Robert Cialdini, an expert on influence put forth a concept called the “scarcity principle.” After several experiments, Cialdini found that making something rare, time-limited, or unique increased its perceived value. So the same goes for love interests- we want what we are denied.
Wanting vs. liking. What is the difference between walking and liking? Individuals who were “easy to get” were perceived as more likable. The women who were perceived as detached and non-engaging, however were more desirable and interesting.
He’s just not that into you. The researchers learned there had to be some level of interest to be able to tell if playing hard to get worked. If he’s not interested, it doesn’t matter how aloof you act. Conversely, if he is interested, playing hard to get might not be a motivating factor for chase.
Conditions. There had to be some level of interest in the beginning. Writes Psychology Today, “Playing hard to get magnified the desire and interest that was already present—but it was not able to create it from nothing.”
Commitment. So under the right conditions- mutual attraction- playing hard to get can work. But there also had to be some element of “likability” for the date to want a relationship. It was a delicate balance.
Challenge. Individuals perceived as being a bit of a “challenge” were perceived as being more valuable. When people are denied, they want individuals to like them more. And they are more motivated to “chase.”
Strategies. So if they seem interested, taking it slow can solidify a longer lasting affair. You want to make sure it’s not just infatuation. But if they’re not interested, coming off as more likable is a more effective strategy.
Likability. Psychology Today recommends some tactics for improving your likability. They claim improving your physical and psychological attractiveness, starting conversations, being more assertive and confident, and complimenting your date can increase your likability. But it’s important to be yourself.
Unrequited love. Being in love with someone who doesn’t return your feelings is never good. There’s nothing romantic about unrequited love. It’s impractical.
What to do? Despite what science may say, love is sometimes irrational. Playing hard to get could alienate the love of your life if you two are really getting along. And being “safe” can make you come off as boring and lacking in self-respect. So it’s best to gauge the situation, be open to new experiences, and remember that humans are more than test subjects.