Indeed, the results confirmed their hypothesis. The women liked these mystery men even more than the men who they knew liked them. Why? Over the course of the 15 minute study the women reported thinking significantly more about them. And when thoughts continuously pop into our heads people tend to construct explanations for why this occurs. If I can’t get this guy off my mind, I must really like him. So, the best strategy to pique the man or woman of your dreams might be to keep your feelings in the dark. Let them guess.
The catch is that this strategy only works if your target actually likes you. Indeed, the more people tend to think about the possibility of uncertain negative outcomes (what is the biopsy going to show?) the worse they come to feel about that outcome. So think of playing hard to get as a kind of relationship litmus test. If he likes you already, then being distant will only make his heart grow fonder. But if you don’t ever hear back, then you can be confident that it wasn’t meant to be.
I wasn’t privy to this cutting edge research five years ago as I pondered how to deal with the impending holiday. A few days of waffling back and forth and I ended up going out to a mediocre bistro with my parents. A road less traveled, surely, and certainly not a decision that screams “I’m interested”. But my mom gave me pink-hearted socks, so not all was lost. And I ended up marrying the girl.
Are you a scientist? Have you recently read a peer-reviewed paper that you want to write about? Then contact Mind Matters co-editor Gareth Cook, a Pulitzer prize-winning journalist at the Boston Globe, where he edits the Sunday Ideas section. He can be reached at garethideas AT gmail.com