I get a number of questions from readers about pick-up artists, game, and seduction techniques. Everyone seems to want to know "are they real?" Can you really use a technique to get "someone to fall in love with you" or "go to bed with you?" Is love just one trick, technique, or pick-up line away?
My answer to them is yes ... and no. Any technique, tactic, or dating strategy is not a fool-proof, never-fail, approach. Some people will like you ... others will not. However, "game," "seduction," "rules," and other approaches can make someone more likely to like you, love you, and want to take you home. When they work, they do so by tapping into some very basic, evolutionary and psychological mechanisms. Love, indeed, can be triggered like a reflex!
But, don't just take my word for it ...
The Science of Game and Seduction
This topic was explored by a recent article by Oesch and Miklousic (2012) in the journal of Evolutionary Psychology. In the article, the two authors describe the parallels between pick-up artist seduction tactics and what evolutionary psychology theory says about human courtship. For those who are familiar with pick-up artist literature and the seduction community, the authors chose "classics" from the field to evaluate; The Mystery Method by Erik von Markovik and Rules of the Game by Neil Strauss.
Through their literature review and assessment, Oesch and Miklousic (2012) find considerable evolutionary support for the overall pick-up model of dating. More specifically, they lend support to the pick-up idea that courtship can be understood (and influenced) as a three-stage process of Attraction, Comfort and Trust, and Seduction.
Attraction is defined by social psychologists as a positive evaluation of another and a desire to initiate contact and intimacy. In other words, it is the initial emotion that draws two people together. Both psychology and pick-up artists stress building attraction as the first step toward relationship and sexual development. In addition, pick-up artists identify several strategies for building initial attraction (which they call "openers"). Some of these strategies, supported by psychological research, include showing social dominance, courage, humor, or popularity (called mate-choice copying).
Comfort and Trust is then advocated by pick-up artist theory, after attraction is developed. The goal of these techniques is to build a greater connection and sense of trust, to both prolong the relationship and make later seduction more likely. Psychological research also offers support for this idea, noting that the display of many moral virtues, agreeableness, empathy, and emotional responsiveness are indeed all key to maintaining an intimate relationship.
Seduction is where the pick-up artist process advises a series of techniques to increase sexual contact. Contrary to many expectations about pick-up artists, the primary literature advocates spending mutually-satisfying time together for at least 7 hours (called the "7-hour rule") before attempting to initiate sexual activity. This, too, is supported by psychological research, noting that individuals often feel sexual interest more acutely after the establishment of emotional intimacy and the activation of various brain chemicals (particularly oxytocin).
Overall, Oesch and Miklousic (2012) state: "In conclusion, it would seem clear that there is in fact a substantive degree of psychological research to support many claims made by the [Seduction] Community. The three reputed phases of courtship, Attraction, building mutual comfort and trust, and seduction, are supported by a significant and steady growing literature based in physiological, social, and evolutionary psychology research." However, the authors also caution, "it is equally important to note that many of the strategies advocated by the community are not currently supported by peer-reviewed literature." Given that, it appears that the overall approach advocated by the seduction community does have merit, but the effectiveness of each individual technique is still up for debate.
There are a few take-home points from this review.
- Human courtship (dating, relationship, and sex) is a predictable process, with set stages of development. Everyone has the same feelings, in the same way, more or less. Both psychological research and pick-up artists concur. Although the labels change, some amount of Attraction, Comfort, and Seduction are present in courtship development.
- Certain techniques of various types can elicit emotions and behaviors, which make relationship development more likely. It is possible to use specific strategies to increase your chances of love, relationships, and sex. Feelings of attraction, comfort, and seduction (lust) can be reliably triggered with specific techniques.
- However, more work needs to be done identifying those specific techniques and testing them. Therefore, even though the overall pick-up artist theory shows merit, all of the tactics they propose have not yet been scientifically validated. So, "buyer beware." Some of what they suggest may not work, may be detrimental, may be counterproductive, or may even go against a variety of values and morals each person holds. In short, a specific technique may not work, may not work on a specific lover, may not work for you, or may not be right for your way of thinking.
Some Specific Techniques
If you browse my blog archive here on Psychology Today, you will note a number of scientifically-supported techniques for influencing loving behavior. Many of these techniques can be further categorized into the above Attraction, Comfort, and Seduction steps. See the bullets and links below for more — depending on what you need to build in your own love life!
Techniques that can build attraction:
- Improving physical and psychological attractiveness (here and here).
- Starting conversations with assertiveness and confidence (here)
- Being a bit coy, elusive, and hard to get (here).
- Using accidental and social touching (here).
- Rewarding positive and attractive behaviors (here).
- Making sure others give and invest in you (here).
Techniques that can increase comfort and trust:
- Building rapport (here).
- Showing awareness and empathy by reading body language (here).
- Creating a mutually-satisfying exchange (here).
- Displaying and expecting gratitude (here).
- Showing good boundaries and handling negative behaviors appropriately (here).
Techniques that can improve seduction and sex:
- Learning to be a good kisser (here).
- Gradually escalating the intensity of touch (here).
- Understanding and supporting your partner's motivation for sex (here).
- Increasing sexual thinking through conversation topics (here).
- Sharing an exciting fetish or fantasy (here).
There is no single, magical solution for finding love. Nevertheless, there are some behaviors and techniques that make finding and keeping love more likely. So, don't believe all of the hype, but don't discard it all skeptically either. Some of these ideas and approaches, even some of those of the pick-up artist, can increase your chances of success. Just be sure to look for research supporting what you choose to do, select strategies that work with your morality and personality, and treat others well too. Then, with a bit of practice, you too can have the love life you desire.
Until next time...happy dating and relating!
Dr. Jeremy Nicholson
The Attraction Doctor
© 2013 by Jeremy S. Nicholson, M.A., M.S.W., Ph.D. All rights reserved.
Oesch, N. & Miklousic, I. (2012). The dating mind: Evolutionary psychology and the emerging science of human courtship. Evolutionary Psychology, 10(5), 899-909.