Lott and Frank Veronsky’s piece in Psychology Today, “The New Flirting Game.” * * * Long trivialized and even demonized, flirtation is gaining new respectability thanks to a spate of provocative studies of animal and human behavior in many parts of the world.
The capacity of men and women to flirt and to be receptive to flirting turns out to be a remarkable set of behaviors embedded deep in our psyches.
The very universality of flirting, preserved through evolutionary history from insects to man, suggests that a flirting plan is wired into us, and that it has been embedded in our genes and in our brain’s operating system the same way and for the same reasons that every other sexual trait has been-by trial and error, with conservation of what works best.
We all need a partner who is not merely fertile but genetically different as well as healthy enough to promise viable offspring, provide some kind of help in the hard job of parenting and offer some social compatibility.
Our animal and human ancestors needed a means of quickly and safely judging the value of potential mates without “going all the way” and risking pregnancy with every possible candidate they encountered.
Thirty years ago, Ethologist Irenaus Eibl-Eibesfeldt, then of the Max Planck Institute in Germany (now honorary director of the Ludwig-Bohzmann Institute for Urban Ethology in Vienna), was already familiar with the widespread dances and prances of mate-seeking animals.
Then he discovered that people in dozens of cultures, from the South Sea islands to the Far East, Western Europe, Africa and South America, similarly engage in a fairly fixed repertoire of gestures to test sexual availability and interest.
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Every come-hither look sent and every sidelong glance received are mutually understood signals of such transcendent history and beguiling sophistication that only now are they beginning to yield clues to the psychological and biological wisdom they encode.