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Nonverbal behavior as courtship signals: the role of control and choice in selecting partners

Karl Grammer (a), Kirsten Kruck (b), Astrid Juette (a), and Bernhard Fink (a)

(a) Ludwig-Boltzmann Institute for Urban Ethology Vienna, Austria
(b) Humanethologisches Filmarchiv der Max-Planck-Gesellschaft Von-der-Tannstrasse 3-5 D-82346 Andechs/Germany

In this work, we provide evidence based on direct observation of behavior in encounters of opposite-sexed strangers, that women initiate and "control" the outcome. In the first minute of these videotaped 10 min. interactions, neither female "solicitation" behavior nor "negative" behavior is strongly related to professed interest in the man, while female "affirmative" behavior at this stage modulates male verbal output in later stages (4-10 min). Although the rate of female courtship-like behavior is significantly higher in the first minute, it is only in the fourth to tenth minute that the rate of female courtship-like behavior is correlated with professed female interest. We hypothesize that this serves as a strategic dynamic reflecting sexual asymmetry in parental investment and the potential cost of male deception to women. Ambiguous protean behavioral strategies veil individuals' intentions and make their future actions unpredictable. These behavioral strategies may result in men's overestimation of female sexual interest.


The original paper has appeared in Evolution and Human Behavior, 21(6), 251-267 (2000).



Selected references & further reading:


Abbey, A. (1982). Sexual differences in attributions for friendly behavior: Do males misperceive female's friendliness? Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 42, 830-838.


Argyle, M. (1988). Bodily Communication. London: Methuen.


Buss, D. M. (1992). Mate preference mechanisms: Consequences for partner choice and intrasexual competition. In L. Cosmides, J. Tooby, J. Barkow (Eds.) The Adapted Mind (pp. 249-266). Oxford: Oxford University Press.


DePaulo, B. M. (1992). Nonverbal behavior and self-presentation. Psychological Bulletin, 111, 203-243.


Givens, G. (1978). The non-verbal basis of attraction: Flirtation, courtship and seduction. Psychiatry, 41, 346-351.


Grammer, K., Fieder, M., & Filova, V. (1997). The communication paradox and possible solutions. In A. Schmitt, K. Atzwanger, K. Grammer, & K. Schäfer (Eds.), New Aspects of Human Ethology (pp. 91-120). New York: Plenum Press.


Grammer, K., Kruck, K., Magnusson, M. (1998). The courtship dance: patterns of non-verbal synchronization in opposite sex-encounters. Journal of Nonverbal Behavior, 22(1), 3-29.


Landolt, M. A., Lalumiére, M. L. & Quinsey, V. L. (1995). Sex differences in intra-sex variations in human mating tactics: An evolutionary approach. Ethology & Sociobiology, 16, 3-25.


Moore, M., M. (1995). Courtship signaling and adolescents: "Girls just wanna have fun"? Journal of Sex Research, 32 (4), 319-328.




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