Is Playing "Hard to Get" A Losing Game?

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Editor's Note: Women's magazines have made a tidy profit telling us how to behave to capture the attention of the man we want. While most of it inspires fits of rage, some studies relating to patterns of attraction are quite interesting. In Why Playing Hard to Get Is a Losing Strategy, Susan Walsh explains why playing hard to get may not be all it's cracked up to be. -- AVF

"Playing hard to get enhances one's appeal at first, but beyond enriching a relationship's origination myth (eg, "She wouldn't even look at me for weeks!"), it doesn't do anything to sustain one's appeal once the stakes are raised. It's a crafty opening gambit," writes the book commentator E.B. in The Economist blog Prospero.


Photo by Cliff (Flickr).

A 1973 study conducted by Elaine Walster at Wisconsin investigated how men feel about women who are hard to get. Single men were given a portfolio of five women, and were told those women had already rated them, as well as four other guys.

This was all a ruse, however, to set up a series of experimental conditions related to how "hard to get" each of the women appeared to be. Each woman fell into one of the following categories: Easy to get (had apparently given high ratings to all five men, including the participant); selectively hard to get (liked the participant but not the other four men); always hard to get (didn't like any of the men, including the participant); and no information (a woman for whom there was no information provided).

Each man was shown the women's ratings, including those of themselves, then asked to choose a woman to date. One woman was far and away more popular than the others: the one who was selectively hard to get. The woman who was apparently selectively hard to get (i.e., easy for you but hard for everyone else) was the runaway winner for the men. Not only that but men thought the selectively hard to get woman would have all the advantages of the "easy to get" woman with none of the drawbacks of the "hard to get" woman. They thought she would be popular, warm and easygoing, but not demanding and difficult.

Read the full article here at Hooking Up Smart.

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