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Playing Hard to Get – Does it Work?

The advice that has, for as long as I can remember, been given to women is: “play hard to get if you want to get a man”. If you ask, a lot of men will admit that they like it when a woman plays hard to get because they want a challenge. But does the “play hard to get” rule hold up against actual scientific studies?

In one study, a group of college men were recruited for what they thought was a dating service. Each man was given the phone number of a lady and instructed to call her and ask her out on a date. Unbeknown to the men, this lady was an accomplice in the study. For half the men she played “easy to get”. She was happy to hear from them and readily accepted the date. For the other half, she played “hard to get”. She was not enthusiastic about going out with the man, but did accept saying she was also dating many other men.

After the phone call the researchers assessed each man’s feelings towards the girl. They found that all of the men had equally pleasant feelings about the women, even those with whom she played hard to get. A similar study found the same reports. Why did men like the cold, hard to get woman as much as they did the pleasant, easy to get woman?

The researchers hypothesized that it is not a hard to get or easy to get woman who is preffered, it is the “selectively hard to get woman” that is sought after. Two subsequent studies supported this idea. The selectively hard to get woman is the one who is easy for you to get, but hard for all other men to get. She is happy to date you, and you know she is declining dates from other men.

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In summary, the researchers concluded “that the optimal strategy would be to give the impression that she has many offers for dates with other men, but refuses them, while indicating that she is willing to date the young man in question, although it will take some effort on his part to persuade her.”(Shibley and Hyde, 2000)

If you think about it, this makes sense. It is a much enjoyed ego boost for a man to known that he is dating a woman who could be with countless other men. Isn’t it flattering when someone gives us “special treatment”?

Something to think about.

Reference: “Understanding Human Sexuality”, Janet Shibley Hyde and John D. DeLamater, 2000

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Sara Reed

Sara Reed is the founder of GetRomantic.com.

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