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Crossed Wires

'Are you flirting with me?' Study measures how well we can answer.

Christoph Hitz

Do men and women know when the other is flirting with them? Apparently not, if the early findings in a Stanford research study are valid.

The project, a collaboration between computer scientist Rajesh Ranganath, linguist Dan Jurafsky and education researcher Dan McFarland,uses data from speed-dating encounters to analyze differences between intention and perception.

Their data come from audiotapes and participant-provided ratings in 946 four-minute dates. The same data is then fed through computer programs trained to interpret situations based on things like word choice and speed or pitch of speech.

Women outperformed men when detecting flirtation, but there were wide discrepancies from pair to pair. One man in the study rated his own flirting level at an 8 and his companion’s a 7 while his female partner rated both of them as a 1. The researchers also are probing how subtle cues in language and behavior express awkwardness, focus and politeness.

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