How to pick a successful pickup line (in two graphs)

August 17, 2012

Not sure of the best way to gin up a conversation with a pickup line this weekend? Rest easy, wonks: We've got a graph to help you out.

A team of researchers at Monmouth University in New Jersey recently tested out receptivity to pickup lines on a group of 99 singles. Their key takeaway: If you're just dying to use some cheesy pickup line on a special someone, do not target them after they've had an especially hard day at work.

Here's how they figured it out: The researchers tested a flat-out cheesy pickup line: "Excuse me, what time is it? I want to be able to remember the exact moment I met you." They did it in two situations, one where the single had just written a story about a recent trip he or she took, and one where she did the same task, but couldn't use any As or Ns.

That second task required a lot more self-regulation -- and seemed to heighten participants' guard against horrible pickup artists. Here's how they rated their likelihood of continuing conversation with the other individual on a scale of one to six, in each condition.

It's worth pointing out though, that these researchers also tested out some other pickup lines, too. And no matter what state these singles were in, the cheesy pickup line routinely did worse than a more innocuous approach like "Hi, how are you?" Even a slightly creepy, direct approach -- "I don't normally come up to people like this, but with you I couldn't resist" -- did better than the corny lines -- in either of the conditions.

So, there you have it, the psychology of pickup lines. We look forward to hearing about any field testing from our readers.

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Brad Plumer · August 17, 2012