Here's the best way to start a conversation with someone you're attracted to, according to science

It’s hard to think of a more awkward experience than talking to an attractive stranger.

It’s like having a stomach full of butterflies and a mouthful of peanut butter: Um, uh, how are you?

Helpfully, social science has done a little empirical research about how to begin a conversation.

Enter a study in the journal Sex Roles lead by University of Alaska psychologist Chris L. Kleinke.

He asked 600 respondents to rate the effectiveness of three kinds of opening lines:

• “Pick-up” lines like “You must be a librarian, because I saw you checking me out”

• Open-ended, innocuous questions like “What do you think of this band?” or “What team are you rooting for?”

• Direct approaches like “You’re cute — can I buy you a drink?”

The responses were pretty evenly split along gender lines: While the men in the study tended to prefer the more direct approach, the women tended to prefer the open-ended, innocuous questions.

Not surprisingly, very few people said they preferred the pick-up lines. The authors said that pick-up lines persist because they’re “reinforced by popular books and magazines that stimulate our fantasies with stories overplaying the number of ‘successful pickups’ that actually occur in real life.”

So it’s best to go with a mild, inoffensive opener.

“The advantage of innocuous opening lines is that they offer a less threatening context for the recipient’s response,” the authors write.

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