We took a closer look at the much talked about flirting article by UC Berkley professor Laura Kray, and the findings are impressive.The simplest demonstration of the power of flirting was in a study where participants imagined they were selling a car worth $1,200 to a potential buyer named Sue.
In one scenario Sue was flirtatious:
As you meet and shake hands, Sue smiles at you warmly and says, “What a pleasure to meet you.” You chat about the weather as Sue takes off her coat and sits down. Looking you up and down, Sue leans forward, briefly touches your arm and says, “You’re even more charming in person than over email.” Then, somewhat playfully, she winks at you and says, “What’s your best price?”
In the other scenario Sue was neutral:
As you meet and shake hands, Sue smiles and says, “It’s a pleasure to meet you.” You chat about the weather as Sue takes off her coat and sits down. Looking you directly in the eye, Sue says, “I’m looking forward to talking over the financials with you and hopefully working out a deal today. Let’s get down to business.” Then, somewhat seriously, she says, “What’s your best price?”
Male participants offered to sell the car for $1,077 in the flirtacious scenarios, versus $1,279 in the neutral scenario. That’s a big discount for just a little flirting.
Sue’s flirtations did not have a significant effect on female participants.
Kray identified further mostly positive effects of flirting, including:
female negotiators being perceived as more effective (Study 1), having greater understanding of their negotiating partner’s interests (Experiment 4), and enhanced the positive mood of their interaction partner (Experiment 3). On the other hand, feminine charm had more complicated effects on female negotiators’ economic outcomes, enhancing their individual outcomes in Experiment 2 but harming them in Experiment 3. Because feminine charm combines friendliness with flirtation, its effect appears to reside in how these two dimensions are balanced. When perceived as flirtatiousness, female negotiators received better offers (Experiment 2); when perceived as friendliness, female negotiators negotiated worse deals (Experiment 3). This pattern is consistent with the finding that warmth signals a lack of competitiveness (Fiske et al., 2002), making friendliness an economic liability in a competitive, zero-sum negotiation. This may also explain the outcome in the mixedmotive negotiation (Experiment 4), that is, feminine charm signaled the female negotiator’s cooperative intent (i.e., concern for other), which enabled expansion of the pie but hindered her ability to competitively claim the added value.
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