Verdecktes indirektes Flirten und seine Vorteile

Ein interessanter Artikel beschäftigt sich mit Signaling gerade in Bezug auf das Flirten:

Abstract: According to signaling theory and a large body of supporting evidence, males  across many taxa produce courtship signals that honestly advertise their quality. The cost of producing or performing these signals maintains signal honesty, such that females are  typically able to choose the best males by selecting those that produce the loudest,  brightest, longest, or otherwise highest-intensity signals, using signal strength as a measure of quality. Set against this background, human flirting behavior, characterized by its frequent subtlety or covertness, is mysterious. Here we propose that the explanation for subtle and ambiguous signals in human courtship lies in socially imposed costs that (a) vary with social context and (b) are amplified by the unusual ways in which language makes all interactions potentially public. Flirting is a class of courtship signaling that conveys the signaler’s intentions and desirability to the intended receiver while minimizing the costs that would accompany an overt courtship attempt. This proposal explains humans’ taxonomically unusual courtship displays and generates a number of novel predictions for both humans and non-human social animals. Individuals who are courting should vary the intensity of their signals to suit the level of risk attached to the particular social configuration, and receivers may assess this flexible matching of signal to context as an indicator of the signaler’s broader behavioral flexibility and social intelligence.

Quelle: Covert Sexual Signaling: Human Flirtation and Implications for Other Social Species


Es geht also darum, dass man seine „Qualität“ als Sexualpartner darstellen möchte, es aber gute Gründe geben kann, dies relativ subtil zu machen.

 Here we propose that the explanation for the subtlety of human courtship lies in the potential costs imposed by both intended and unintended receivers of courtship signals, either in the form of damage to social capital or of interference and intervention by third parties. This paper proposes a social-cost-based model of human courtship signaling. The  model starts with the premise that sexual overtures among humans are inherently risky, with most of the potential costs coming from the social realm. It further proposes that, because the social risks of courtship signaling vary depending on details of the social context, signalers will be most successful when they modify signal intensity in response to the relevant social cues. Whereas the standard model of sexually selected courtship signaling suggests that maximum intensity is always favored, we propose flexibility as an alternative route to reproductive success. Signalers who skillfully assess and adjust to social context (i.e., good flirts) display their quality not through high-intensity displays that  index physical prowess and condition, but through sensitive signal-to-context matching that indicates behavioral flexibility and social intelligence.


Human verbal or gestural courtship signals are energetically inexpensive to produce. However, the socially imposed performance costs that attend human courtship can be high. Both within the signaler-receiver dyad and in the larger social network, initiating courtship involves risks that vary widely in scale and scope. Jealous mates and rivals can impose physical costs ranging from a shove to serious injury or death. The costs to reputation and social capital can be as minor as a small demotion in the receiver’s esteem, or as large as the complete loss of benefits that the signaler derived from his relationship to the receiver or to a potentially vast network of others who may disapprove of—or actively oppose—a particular courtship attempt.

Also soziale Kosten des zu offensichtlichen Flirtens über eifersüchtige Freunde oder Rivalen und zudem die Kosten dadurch, dass ein Flirten etwas über einen aussagt, beispielsweise weil es nicht erfolgreich ist.

Das erklärt auch die Ansprechangst, die viele Männer und Frauen beim Flirten empfinden.

Es wird dann noch betont, dass gerade durch die menschliche Sprache die sozialen Folgen im Gegensatz zu anderen Tieren größer sein können, da die Informationen direkt weitergegeben können.

A potential solution lies in “implicature” (Grice, 1975), a type of speech act that contains more meaning (via implication) than what is strictly present in the words used. The key quality of Gricean implicature—for the flirt—is that it allows speakers to claim two distinct meanings at once: the surface meaning as well as the implied one. For example, the question, “Do you want to grab coffee sometime?” can be both an innocent invitation to drink coffee and a sexual overture. The mechanics of implicature place some of the burden of assigning meaning onto the receiver; this shift in responsibility, and the
ambiguity of multi-meaning utterances, allows speakers to maneuver around the risks that attend certain utterances in certain social spaces.
Grice proposed that indirect statements succeed in getting implied meanings across because of the ritualized way that they appear to violate a general “cooperative principle” of conversation – essentially that conversation partners will reliably do their best to make themselves understood, by confining their speech to utterances that are pertinent to the subject at hand and comprehensible to the listener. Speakers fulfill this mandate to communicate cooperatively by adhering to four “maxims”: Under the maxim of Quantity, speakers will make their contributions neither more nor less informative than required. Under Quality, they will be truthful. Under Relation, speakers will simply “be relevant.”Under Manner, they will be as brief, orderly, and clear as possible.

Also ein indirekter Ansatz als Lösung für das Problem. Und vielleicht auch der Grund, warum Flirten bei Menschen so kompliziert ist. Keiner will sich zu schnell aus der Deckung trauen. Alles bleibt indirekt und vorsichtig. Zu direktes Auftreten kann dann als Verstoß gehen  diese Regeln gesehen werden, wobei auch ein Verstoß gegen die Regeln wieder attraktiv sein kann im Sinne eines ehrlichen Signals, wenn man es erfolgreich senden kann.

Die Vorhersagen aus dem Modell finde ich insoweit interessant:

In particular, the present model makes the following predictions:
Signalers will adjust the overtness of their sexual overtures in response to changes in
the social context.

  • Within-individual differences in signal intensity (overtness) should correlate with between-context differences in the social risks attached to a courtship attempt.  Contextual parameters such as the presence of rivals, the potential for an advance to  be considered inappropriate, or the higher social status of the receiver should  typically induce signalers to be flirtatious rather than overt.
  • Signaling will be direct (and not flirtatious) in contexts in which social risks are extremely low, and most indirect (and also not flirtatious) in contexts where social  risks are extremely high.
  • Individuals who are more socially skilled or experienced in general should be more adept at varying their courtship approaches to match varying social contexts.

Receivers’ assessments of particular signals will not be static, and their assessments of
signalers will take into account the adeptness with which they flirt:

  • Receivers will judge the appeal of flirtatious signals on how well those signals match particular social scenarios.
  • Receivers should perceive “good flirting,” characterized by a balance between  daring and subtlety, as an attractive trait in itself, distinct from other traits that determine attractiveness (e.g., physical appearance).

Receivers who judge a particular signaler to be a “good flirt” will correspondingly
increase their assessment of the signaler’s overall social intelligence.

  • Receivers should take “good flirting,” as defined above, as evidence that the signaler possesses broader underlying intelligence.
  • Receivers may also be expected to treat a signaler’s strong or weak performance as a flirt as predicting his likely abilities in other areas of performance that index the same underlying cognitive skill set, such as humor or creativity

Demnach kann man eine gute Flirttechnik, die hinreichend diskret ist, auch als „Zeichen guter Gene“ sehen.