Monday, November 30, 2009

Flirting Research

Perhaps the first serious study of flirting was done in the 1960's by Dr. Irenaus Eibl-Eibesfeldt, an eminent ethologist at the Max Planck Institute in Germany.

Dr. Eibl-Eibesfeldt traveled to cultures around the world with a camera that took pictures from the side so he could stand near couples and take their pictures without their realizing they were being observed.

In research in Samoa, Brazil, Paris, Sydney and New York, Dr. Eibl-Eibesfeldt discovered an apparently universal human vocabulary for flirting and courtship.

In humans, one such gesture is a palm-up placement of the hand, whether on a table or a knee, a reassuring sign of harmlessness.

Another submissive display is the shoulder shrug, which, ethologists suggest, derives from an ancient vertebrate reflex, a posture signifying helplessness.

A posture combining the partly shrugged shoulder and a tilted head-which displays the vulnerability of the neck-is commonly seen when two people who are sexually drawn to each other are having their first conversation.

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