By Susan Campbell, published on July 1, 2002 - last reviewed on June 9, 2016
Office politics are more complicated than ever: Male interviewers
who believe female job applicants are attracted to them may subtly elicit
flirtatious behavior from the women—unbeknownst to the women and
regardless of whether they are even attracted to the men.
Robert Ridge, Ph.D., an associate professor of psychology at
Brigham Young University, gave 60 male students false information about
female job applicants, with whom the male students then conducted phone
interviews. Half of the falsified questionnaires suggested the woman was
attracted to her interviewer.
Men interviewing women who indicated no interest in them reported
no flirtation whatsoever, while men who believed their candidate was
attracted to them perceived the woman as flirtatious. Women, on the other
hand, did not sense the overtures, nor did they regard their own behavior
Independent evaluators agreed that the men were not flirting but
rated the women flirtatious when men believed they were
"I was surprised that there was flirtatiousness in the women, but
we were unable to detect differences in the men's behavior," Ridge says.
"It might suggest that men become very skilled at behavioral
"Men may believe that their subtle, flirtatious overtures are
harmless," Ridge states in the study, published in
Basic and Applied Social Psychology. "However, this
may initiate an escalation of inappropriate advances."