Casual interracial couple drinking wine during date

(© klublu -

LAWRENCE, Kan. — Is she flirting or just being polite? It’s a question plenty of men have had to ask themselves or their friends in social settings. Sometimes, unfortunately, it can lead to awkward misunderstandings when you get these signals wrong. So is there really a way to tell if someone likes you? A new study says there is and one particular facial expression is the key.

“There are very few scientific articles out there that have systematically studied this well-known phenomenon,” Omri Gillath from the University of Kansas says in a release. “None of these studies have identified the flirting facial expression and tested its effects.”

The Kansas team uses the Facial Action Coding System (FACS) to examine facial expressions. Their study looks at how women interact in a social environment and how if they can convey their attraction without actually saying anything.

“Across our six studies, we found most men were able to recognize a certain female facial expression as representing flirting,” Gillath explains. “It has a unique morphology, and it’s different from expressions that have similar features — for example, smiling — but aren’t identified by men as flirting expression.”

Men keenly aware of ‘flirting face’

The study recruited professional actresses and volunteers from the community to discover which facial cues men pick up on. While some women were found to be better at making a flirtatious face than others, and some men were better at reading these cues, the study finds nearly every male successfully picked out one face as flirting.

The FACS results reveal turning a head to one side while tilting down slightly, a slight smile, and eyes looking forward at the person of interest is the most effective flirting face.

“Our findings support the role of flirtatious expression in communication and mating initiation,” Gillath adds. “For the first time, not only were we able to isolate and identify the expressions that represent flirting, but we were also able to reveal their function — to activate associations related with relationships and sex.”

The study appears in the Journal of Sex Research.

[fb_follow /]

About Chris Melore

Chris Melore has been a writer, researcher, editor, and producer in the New York-area since 2006. He won a local Emmy award for his work in sports television in 2011.

Our Editorial Process

StudyFinds publishes digestible, agenda-free, transparent research summaries that are intended to inform the reader as well as stir civil, educated debate. We do not agree nor disagree with any of the studies we post, rather, we encourage our readers to debate the veracity of the findings themselves. All articles published on StudyFinds are vetted by our editors prior to publication and include links back to the source or corresponding journal article, if possible.

Our Editorial Team

Steve Fink


Chris Melore


Sophia Naughton

Associate Editor