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What Pick-Up Lines Work Best (on Men)?

New research examines female flirtation tactics.

Male pick-up lines tend to be of two kinds: bad and worse. "You're hot, can I have your number?" "Can you recommend a good drink?" "Can I get a picture of you so I can show Santa what I want for Christmas?” These are just a few of the gems in the male pick-up line repertoire.

But what about females? Do women use pick-up lines as well? If so, do they work, and are they any more clever than what the male species has to offer?

New research forthcoming in the journal Personality and Individual Differences explored these questions in the context of an online experiment. Specifically, a team of psychologists led by Maryanne Fisher of Saint Mary's University in Halifax, Canada tested which of three forms of female pick-up lines—direct, flippant, and innocuous—were most effective in piquing the interest of a potential male suitor. 

Interestingly, they found that directness was the most successful approach.

"The initial communication that occurs between prospective romantic partners is critical in determining whether an interaction, and subsequent relationship, will continue or not," state Fisher and her team. "We examined which pick-up lines that women may use on men, in the context of dating, are the most effective. [...] Our findings suggest that direct lines are preferred over flippant and innocuous lines, with the innocuous lines being the least preferred."

Fisher and her team recruited 130 heterosexual adult males to take part in a short study. In the study, participants were asked to evaluate a series of 12 photographs of women accompanied by a pick-up line. For each image, the researchers asked participants to evaluate the perceived attractiveness of the woman, the perceived promiscuity of the woman, and the perceived effectiveness of the pick-up line.  

Importantly, the pick-up lines were divided into three categories: direct, flippant, and innocuous. For each category, four pick-up lines were used (listed below).

Direct pick-up lines: "Want to have a drink together?" You have really nice eyes." "Can I have your number?" "You're cute."Flippant pick-up lines: "Shall we talk, or continue flirting from a distance?" "I always see you here, you must be the bar's best customer!" "Since you're alone and I'm alone, why don't we sit together?" "I'm easy, are you?"Innocuous pick-up lines: "Can you recommend a good drink?" "I've seen you before, do you work here?" "Where did you get that tattoo? Did it hurt?" and "Hi."

The researchers then analyzed which pick-up lines were rated by male participants as most likely to be effective. They found that direct pick-up lines were most successful, flippant pick-up lines were second most successful, and innocuous lines were least likely to be judged as effective.

How might a female's perceived level of attractiveness and promiscuity change the equation? The researchers found that attractiveness played a more influential role in the perceived effectiveness of females' pick-up lines than promiscuity. Not surprisingly, men rated all forms of pick-up lines coming from attractive females as effective. And, although direct pick-up lines were preferred overall, the results changed for women who were perceived as less attractive. For those women, flippant pick-up lines were met with the most male interest.



Fisher, M. L., Coughlin, S., & Wade, T. J. (2020). Can I have your number? Men's perceived effectiveness of pick-up lines used by women. Personality and Individual Differences, 153, 109664.


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